In whatever critique I have to make of public figures in Guyana, I take pains to avoid any reference to any relative, even at times where said mention would be tangentially relevant to the point I am trying to make. Hence, when I saw the recent launch of young Ashley Anthony’s book Mysterious Association and the Virtu Gems (sic) I declined to publicly point out the irony of Minister Frank Anthony’s – Ashley’s father – woeful record of creating the sort of space for other young aspiring Guyanese authors to write and publish their work.
I have nothing against precociously intelligent children – I happen to be the proud father of one. I intend to use whatever humble resources I possess at my disposal to ensure that he not only gets the best education I can afford, but also that his natural talents find proper outlet; I am sure that Minister has the same outlook with his children.
Where Dr Anthony seems to have fallen down considerably however is that he appears confused as to what constitutes personal resources at his disposal and what constitutes public resources.
Ashley Anthony’s book has the publication label ‘Caribbean Press’ on it. As far as I know, the Caribbean Press is a publication mechanism established about three years ago, in the wake of the 2008 commitment by former President Jagdeo to give US$100,000 a year to establish a publishing house. The original intent was clearly to find an outlet for the publication of writers resident in Guyana (and, secondarily, the wider Caribbean); after a couple months of silence, it was announced that the Press would start off by publishing a series of out-of-print books called the Guyana Classics series. The publication of contemporary local writers was postponed after the full run of some 36 “classic” titles, upon which new writers would be considered for publication.
Unless the situation can be proven to be otherwise, the publication mechanism promised to contemporary Guyanese/Caribbean writers almost five years ago, has only so far published one contemporary writer, the daughter of the man in charge of the Caribbean Press. Indeed, this is the only state-funded publication of any contemporary writer since the PPP took first office over twenty years ago. And her father used his clout to have the state information agency cover the release of the book. And it was given primacy of space (front page) in the state owned newspaper.
This is a clear-cut case of nepotism, and one that has been shamefully thrown in the face not of local writers alone, but that of the general public. Taxpayers dollars go to fund the literary efforts of the daughter of a minister of government, who then profits from that investment from the sale of her books, at thirteen years old. This in a country where the government was only recently involved in a scandal where it refused to recognise the copyright of authors who’ve produced textbooks that are used in the school curriculum.
The Minister’s most unfortunate misstep in this is that he has tainted the first efforts of what may well be a talented young writer, his own daughter, with the stain of nepotism at the least. It does not matter how good her book may be, Ashley Anthony now has to live with the fact her debut novel has all the stink and stigma of the PPP’s shameless sycophancy upon it.
Now, I am personally tired of single-handedly having to point out the painfully obvious incompetence, spite, idiocy and self-interest that pervades the official policy on fine arts, particularly literature.
I’m going to call on a few people to lend their voices in condemning this wanton insult against the local literary committee:
Dr Ian McDonald who has been the most consistent champion of the literary arts in Guyana for almost three decades, and who is listed with Dr David Dabydeen as the co-creator of the Caribbean Press;
Dr Dabydeen himself, Guyana’s permanent representative to UNESCO and now Ambassador to China and the only known Director of the Press;
Vanda Radzik, co-editor of Kyk-over-al (along with Dr McDonald) and current Chair of Moray House where only last year the young Ms Anthony recited some of her work;
Petamber Persaud, who has been most closely associated with the Press, and who has functioned as the ministry’s effective liaison with the local writing community on behalf of the mechanism;
Al Creighton, Secretary to the Guyana Prize for Literature and perennial cheerleader for the PPP’s literary development initiatives, such as they are;
Dr Paloma Mohamed who was in charge of Carifesta X, a Guyana Prize winning writer herself, and the administration’s go to person on a wide range of cultural matters;
Dr Rupert Roopnaraine, who I’ve been informed has been contracted to write a title to be published under the Caribbean Press.
Now, it is either that Ms Anthony’s publication under the Caribbean Press is completely kosher and hence not worthy of comment outside of praise; or it is as I’ve suggested, and hence ripe for condemnation by anyone who claims to have the interest of local literature at heart. I look forward to their responses, either way, since I expect none from the Minister himself.