The relatively young Frank Anthony is the Minister of Culture and was a Commissioner on the Ethnic Relations Commission. Being given the opportunity to serve this nation at the named levels, he more than most in the PPP, having being exposed to the thrust that gave meaning to these two bodies, ought to understand and appreciate the importance of culture and race to welding this nation together under the motto One People, One Nation, One Destiny. The lived experiences of every group in this society gives us our unique culture of oneness (Guyanese) and the honest weaving of these diverse tapestries helps in the building of one nation where together we recognise a shared destiny, i.e. our wellbeing is intertwined by virtue of the land we share, the respect shown to each other, and the laws we must all adhere to.
Having said this, it is disgusting and disturbing that this country is again caught up in conflict that has the potential of creating animosity when none ought to exist in the first instance. The move by the minister to construct the 1823 monument at the seawall is indicative of the government’s penchant to use race as a wedge in this society and its intent to not honour agreements made with or on behalf of the African community.
When the relatively young Bharrat Jagdeo assumed the presidency he was initially seen as someone to take bold steps and move this country forward by putting systems in place to avoid and manage racial conflict. It wasn’t too long before many realised that youth in itself does not offer change, leaving the impression that if one is suckled on a belief it is difficult to change thinking.
Frank Anthony now finds himself in a similar position. And based on how he handles the matter of the 1823 monument it will prove whether he is an agent of change or he refuses to wean himself off the idea that discrimination on the grounds of race while relevant to the politics of the PPP has no place in modern society. The minister is being conniving in his statement that he invited opinions for locating the monument, when he is fully aware that the site was already settled on by the Jagdeo administration and the people with a formal sod turning at Parade Ground on 1st August 2000- the 162nd anniversary of emancipation. This act in itself sealed the agreement thus there was no need for subsequent invited opinions. Or, was the act of August 2000 a political stunt by Jagdeo to court the support of the African community which Anthony must now undo?
And for the minister to argue that public notification was disseminatedm absent efforts to realise consultation with the original actors with whom the agreement was made amplifies the connivance on the matter. It is also deceptive to argue that the placement of the monument on Parade Ground will disturb sport activities when such activities were already being conducted prior to the turning of the sod, and of which no such excuse was made when the Cheddi Jagan Dental School was placed on this very ground.
The rumour that the 1823 monument is now not being placed at the Ground because the area has been subsequently identified as a business location for one of the PPP’s major financiers needs to be investigated and exposed.
And if this is so, like it has been for the coveting of African lands in Sparendaam to build Pradoville 2, it would confirm the non-stop efforts by this government to take away and deny others what’s theirs.
In the instance where the government in 1976 located the Enmore Martyrs Monument in memory of the sugar workers along the East Coast of Demerara who in 1948 were collectively on strike and suffered the atrocity of the colonial authority, the site was chosen out of recognition for the symbolism of the incident and respect for the sensitivity of the affected people. Enmore was the bedrock of the struggle that saw the death of five sugar workers at the hands of the colonial police. And while the 1823 rebellion began at Success, East Coast of Demerara, a significant amount of these slaves who revolted were beheaded at Parade Ground in Georgetown coupled with other acts of symbolism attached to the area.
In any self respecting heterogeneous/multi-racial society consideration is shown for these factors and as such is not one-sided but universal. And if it was right to respect the symbolism of 1948 to the Indians then it cannot be wrong to respect the symbolism of 1823 to the Africans. Further, it bodes well for racial respect, the people’s collective development and this nation’s stability given our history that resolution on the 1823 monument be attained by respecting the site location made in the 2000 agreement and/or the wishes of the people in whose struggle this monument represents.