Your Excellency Brigadier David Granger, President of the Co-operative Republic of Guyana,
Honourable Ministers of the Cabinet,
Honourable Members of the National Assembly,
Other Representatives of the Guyanese State,
Members of the Diplomatic and Honorary Consular Corps,
Members of the Media,
Other Distinguished Guests,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am pleased to welcome you here this evening to mark the launch of the publication Aspects of European-Guyanese Heritage. This has been a joint initiative between the European Union, the National Trust of Guyana, and the Guyana Heritage Society. I am particularly pleased that His Excellency President Granger has joined us for this launch, as not only is he a former president of the Guyana Heritage Society, but also, in his capacity as a noted historian, he has contributed an article in the book on the Dutch colonial governor Laurens Storm van’s Gravesande.
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I recall when I first arrived in Guyana almost two years ago, I was struck by the beauty of the colonial architecture, and thought how historically significant it must be. Our then-Head of Cooperation, Ewout Sandker, and he and his family lived in a charming colonial house in Bourda. Within eyesight of his house was the Georgetown Cricket Club, and I remember chatting to Ewout about how interesting to European and other tourists the European cultural and architectural heritage of Guyana must be. This was the genesis of the idea of supporting a record of the Guyana-European heritage – not only as an end in itself, but also to assist Guyana in branding itself abroad. Guyana is of course known for its stunning natural beauty and the warmth of its people, but is less known abroad for its cultural and architectural heritage and its rich history. I am convinced that it would be most beneficial to Guyana to also highlight this aspect as part of "Brand Guyana" – this would potentially be as much of a draw as Kaieteur Falls or the birdwatching tours.
We in the EU Delegation then took the initiative forward, discussing it with Minister Nicolette Henry, and I would like to thank her for her personal support and the support of her department. With Minister Henry's blessing, we further advanced the initiative with Ms Nirvana Persaud, Chief Executive of the National Trust of Guyana, and Mr Ben ter Wolle, current President of the Guyana Heritage Society. Ben is an authority on the history and heritage of Guyana, and both he and Nirvana, who is equally an authority on Guyana's heritage, were the drivers of this project, and it could not have happened without their hard work, dedication and vision. Ben and Nirvana, many thanks and congratulations. I would also like to especially thank Mr Michael Lam who provided the fabulous illustration plates contained in the book. Special thanks also go to Mr Odran Hayes, from my Delegation, who supervised the whole project.
This book illustrates the many facets of Guyana's state-building process and how symbols of its statehood have been established and how important it is to value them and uphold them for future generations.
I regard the publication of this book as one of the many examples of the excellent cooperation between the European Union and Guyana, building on other initiatives such as the funding we are providing a restoration and conservation management plan that will guide the restoration and long-term preservation of Georgetown’s iconic City Hall and the City Engineer's Building. Built in 1889 they are unquestionably among the most outstanding architectural, cultural and historically significant buildings in Guyana. This project will also enable a transfer of know-how on how to correctly restore other monuments of historical and symbolic value in Guyana.
We are going to send a copy of the publication to the library of every one of the one hundred and fifty secondary schools in Guyana, [and I am delighted that the school principals of Queen's College and Brickdam Secondary School are here to symbolically receive the copies for all of Guyana's secondary schools]. It is my wish that the book will motivate the younger generations to understand the value of Guyana's heritage, and that they will perceive it also as an opportunity for attracting visitors to come and admire the unique heritage of Guyana.
Copies of the book are on sale here this evening, at a very reasonable price given the quality of the writing and the photography. It is an extremely interesting book and I encourage you all to read it and learn more about the fabulous history of this beautiful land.