Why have Amerindian Heritage Month celebrations been curtailed?

Dear Editor,
A very low key presentation by our new Minister of Amerindian Affairs, shown on GTV 11, heralded the promotion of this year’s annual Amerindian Heritage Month celebrations. It was so low key that none of the daily newspapers deemed it worthy of coverage. As such most of the general public is still in the dark as to the exact activities that will be undertaken during the month’s activities.

This muted presentation is in direct contrast to the pomp and fanfare that our previous minister gave to Amerindian Heritage Month celebrations. There were press conferences, interviews, colourful advertisements on TV and numerous press releases. For the last five years Amerindian Heritage Month was an eagerly anticipated period of celebration. People from all walks of life joined in this celebration and it became so popular that it was advertised on the tourism calender of events.

Some of the main events included a heritage village which was selected from the numerous Amerindian communities around Guyana, a religious service and an opening ceremony and exhibition that was held at the Umana Yana, a regional heritage programme that was held in the Rupununi and included the various sub-districts, a sports competiton that was held in Georgetown and included football teams from the hinterland that travelled to Georgetown to pit their skills against the top football clubs, and also to compete against each other in a grand exhibition match and the Cultural Extravaganza/Beauty pageant that is alternated yearly.

The participants from the hinterland that took part in the events in Georgetown numbered in the hundreds with almost every event being a virtual sell-out.
The crowds that assembled at the opening of the heritage celebrations at the Umana Yana were so large that the compound could not accommodate the masses. The GNS ground which was the venue for the sporting extravaganza was also always completely sold out while the crowds at the National Cultural Centre for the Cultural Extravaganza/Beauty Pageant rivalled those for national events.
So why, for 2008, has such an immensely popular Amerindian Heritage programme been so dramatically curtailed? This curtailment definitely does not represent the general opinion of Amerindian Heritage celebrations. In fact, this year’s activities should have been bigger and better than last year’s as the popularity ratings were sky high.

There were whisperings for some time that the regular heritage celebrations would have been curtailed for this year because of Carifesta. The Minister did not allude to this but one can’t help but wonder if Carifesta did indeed play a part in the drastic scaling down of Amerindian Heritage celebrations. If indeed it was, why was it so? Amerindian Heritage Month celebrations are completely different to those of Carifesta, thus the budgetary allocation would be different.
The Amerindian Affairs Minister needs to let her people know why such a hugely popular event has been so drastically reduced. If it is for financial reasons, or otherwise, then her people deserve to know.

Amerindian Heritage Month celebrations were and always will be a very popular activity which has grown into a national event. To now abruptly curtail such an event at the height of its popularity, seems illogical.

The Ministry of Amerindian Affairs represents the Amerindian people and should be guided by their opinions. If the Minister of Amerindian Affairs is to ask her people about the importance of Amerindian Heritage Month and its activities the overwhelming majority would deem it extremely important.
Yours faithfully,
M Emile

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