ACDA had reached agreement that it would not accept money for the Emancipation Festival from the Office of the President

Dear Editor,

Today, I have decided to break my silence on the issue of ACDA’s request to President Jagdeo, through the Office of the President, for financial support for the African Emancipation Festi-val.

While reading Stabroek News on Sunday, July, 19, 2009, I saw two articles captioned respectively, ‘Jagdeo meets ACDA, Bagotville group on Emancipation Day celebrations’ and ‘President pledges $2M to ACDA for Emancipation celebrations.’ The latter was based on a GINA press release.

I was most surprised and amazed to learn that Mr Stanley Cooke had approached the President for financial support for the Emancipation Festival, when he had no authority from ACDA to do so. It is necessary to point out that he did the same thing last year and was severely criticised.

Mr Cooke is fully aware that ACDA, subsequent to his approach to the President last year, had met, discussed and had arrived at an agreement on how this matter would have been handled in the future. His approach to the President purportedly on ACDA’s behalf in 2009 is in clear violation of ACDA’s agreed position.

On seeing the above mentioned articles I wrote to Sister Violet Baptiste, ACDA‘s Public Relations Officer, drawing her attention to the articles and requested that the organization put out a public statement clarifying its position on the issue within 48 hours or I would go public with my position on the matter. I was subsequently informed that efforts were being made to do as I had requested. My deadline has come and gone and to date no statement has emerged from ACDA, hence my decision to publicly put on record my position on this very important matter.

For the last three years I have struggled in ACDA against the organisation requesting financial support for the Emancipation Festival from the President. I had done so primarily as a matter of principle, because I have always been of the view that at some point in time the government would have used its money to place ACDA in an unpleasant position. It was therefore not surprising to me when last year the matter got nasty with the Office of the President announcing at the time it had made its donation that ACDA’s representatives in the course of their discussion with the President had expressed their support for government polices. Needless to say this resulted in a huge crisis in the organization as members and supporters expressed alarm at the development. On August 6, 2008, I prepared at ACDA’s request, the following draft statement which was discussed and agreed to:

“DRAFT STATEMENT:


“ACDA‘S POSITION ON ACCEPTANCE OF GOVERNMEMT FINANCE FOR THE AFRICAN EMANCIPATION FESTIVAL

“The African Cultural and Development Association (ACDA) takes this opportunity to place on record its reasons for accepting financial support from the government for the 2008 African Emanci-pation Festival and, to state its new position on this issue.

“For several years prior to 2007 ACDA had successfully hosted the Annual Emancipation Festival without any financial support from the Guyana government. In staging this event ACDA’s efforts were supported mainly from the African masses and some business enterprises.

The escalating cost to promote and organize the festival as a result of inflation and other factors forced ACDA to consider other sources of finance. In 2007 ACDA debated a suggestion by some members that a request be made to the government for financial support for the festival. The decision that was arrived at was that this request should be directed to President Jagdeo. A formal request was therefore sent to him and funding was provided which helped to defray the expenses in respect to the celebrations in 2007 up to the last festival.

“In 2008 the Office of the President had decided to play politics and made the erroneous claim that ACDA’s representatives in the course of the discussions for funding for that year had expressed support for government policies. This resulted in a tremendous outcry in ACDA with some members calling on the organization to refuse the money. Many supporters expressed concern that the image and credibility of the organization was being negatively affected and the damage to the organization far outweighed the meagre support from the government.

ACDA wishes to make it very clear that its acceptance of government support for the Emancipation Festival has been and continues to be a divisive issue within the organization. From the inception there have been two positions on the matter: (1) that the money given by the Office of the President belongs to the people of Guyana, and the African community and the Emancipation Festival has a right to access those funds (2) that the Festival is a national event and is entitled to financial support from the national treasury. But members were opposed to ACDA having to request government support from the President annually. Instead, it was felt that ACDA should insist that the money be given as an annual subvention and disbursed through the Ministry of Youth and Culture.

“After careful, reconsideration of this matter, ACDA has arrived at the following decision – It will in future only accept government funding for the Emancipation Festival if it is in the form of an annual subvention, which is approved by parliament and disbursed through the Ministry of Youth and Culture.

“ACDA has therefore undertaken to write immediately to the President, the government and opposition parties informing them of its new position in respect to government’s financial support for the annual Emancipa-tion observance celebrations.

“ACDA also wish to state that this position is informed by the strong sentiments in the African Community that the organization should work to make the African Emancipation Festival independent of government support.”

In conclusion I find it difficult that the organization has failed to state: (1) that Mr Stanley Cooke had no authority to go to the President requesting finance in the name of ACDA; (2) ACDA had reached an agreement on a new approach on the matter; and (3) announced that it would not accept the money.

Yours faithfully,
Tacuma Ogunseye

Editor’s note

We are sending a copy of this letter to Ms Violet Baptiste, PRO of ACDA, for any comments she might wish to make.

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