A few weeks ago, both the state and independent media reported that the shortlist of the Guyana Prize for Literature would be announced by August 19th, presumably of this year. We are officially in September, the month in which the same reports stated that the Prize would be held and yet not a single mention of the shortlist has hit the public domain.
Knowing the administration’s penchant for interference in and subversion of all things cultural the national calypso competition, the festivals selection process, the Caribbean Press ‒I believe that a fair amount of concern is warranted at this supposedly inexplicable delay. I know for a fact that the judging process is over and the overseas members of the jury returned to their respective places of residence, so there is no excuse for the shortlist not to have been released, something that would set the stage for the actual awards.
The PPP clearly believes that it can manufacture an environment of artistic expression that is both exemplary and uncritical of the regime, if not in direct praise of it. This is done by the exclusion of accomplished artists critical of government policy, and the inclusion and promotion of the compliant and more often than not, mediocre.
The Guyana Prize for Literature, by virtue of a jury selection process that places emphasis on diversity and qualification, as well as non-residence, stands as the last possible bulwark against Freedom House’s quest to corrupt culture to reflect the supposed Utopia it wants our artists to portray. My qualified guess at the reason for the delay is that the waning powers that be are far from comfortable with the shortlist, and hence the award ceremony is going to be like the local government bills postponed indefinitely. Indeed, considering the quality of his public pronouncements so far, I would not be surprised if the President, slated to hand out these national awards, were to deem the list as unconstitutional.
There has to be some end to this officially sanctioned pettiness and vindictiveness that runs through the executive it does the country no good and, while those in the PPP clearly care little for image, provides an increasing source of embarrassment for those of us who want to project a positive image of Guyana abroad. I advise the Government of Guyana to do the unexpected and proper thing for once and to simply release the shortlist.