We missed the opportunity to make the Jubilee celebration an all-inclusive event
Many Guyanese, both local and from the diaspora looked forward eagerly to the celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Independence of their native land as a time when the entire nation would join hands together, regardless of ethnicity, class, gender, sexual orientation and geographical location, and celebrate the significance of this milestone in our nation’s history. But this was not to be, if one is to judge from what took place at the Flag-raising Ceremony.
Unfortunately, lack of inclusiveness was the hallmark of both the organisation and the delivery of the evening’s proceedings. This was clear from the composition of the audience that participated in the D’Urban Park proceedings, and the low numbers of Indo-Guyanese that were present at the event. One could rhetorically ask questions about this phenomenon, whereby at a supposedly national event, the significant absence of some segments of the population was all too visible. Some ‒ but certainly not all ‒ of this could perhaps be accounted for by the location of the celebration in Georgetown (the audience might have looked different if a Jubilee event was held in Berbice, or in the hinterland). It is difficult however to avoid the conclusion that a significant segment of our population did not identify with or feel included in what was taking place. What could the organisers have done in developing their planning strategy to involve people across communities? For example, did they consider facilitating transportation from the outlying districts? Did they address the notions of social cohesiveness, inclusiveness and national unity in their planning strategy? Or is it that they have accepted the idea that this nation will be forever plagued by the spectre of the racial divide?
The organisers of the event must also take responsibility for organising a cultural extravaganza that failed to recognise that Guyana is a multi-ethnic society. How could they formulate a programme that was for the most part Afrocentric? One would, for example, have expected that the invocation to the gods would have been done by at least the three strands of our religious backgrounds ‒ Christian, Muslim and Hindu. Moreover, the organisers should have ensured that the cultural items showcased elements of our multi-cultural society, and the heritage of our first peoples, the Amerindian communities. They missed a great opportunity.
Let this disaster that occurred on the eve of our anniversay celebration be a lesson for future national events. Let those in authority at the decision-making level use the expertise that resides in organisations located right here in the capital which would have made their knowledge available, if requested. Inexperience is never an excuse for sub-standard output. Delegating responsibility to line staff or Junior Ministers does not remove the ultimate responsibility from the top.
In addition, I wish to point to the blatant faux pas that plagued the evening’s proceedings, including the lack of protocol that should have been observed in the VIP stand. I am reliably informed that apparently there was no proper and adequate seating arrangements for the PPP contingent (the only significant Indo-Guyanese presence at that level at the event).
Sadly, we missed a glorious opportunity to make the Jubilee celebrations an all-inclusive watershed event. Let us hope we have learned from these mistakes.
Marilyn E Trotz