When a small group of persons was called into the Ministry of Culture two years ago to produce a ‘national’ anthology of poetry under the Caribbean Press, my one caveat for offering my own work was that a call for entries be made via national advertisement, followed by developmental workshops, editorial guidance and then publication.
The Minister of Culture, Dr Frank Anthony not only refused to follow that free advice but abdicated all responsibility for that and a subsequently announced anthology of short fiction, neither of which have yet been produced, despite assurances from both the Minister and Caribbean Press Editor, Dr David Dabydeen.
Clearly, the Minister is a difficult student with regard to lessons of inclusiveness and public accountability.
There is no explanation otherwise for the fact that, in the announcement earlier this week of an Israeli government sponsored cultural entrepreneurship workshop for 30 young entrepreneurs, we learn, “It was developed to teach the participants, selected from 60 applicants who were nominated, business concepts and how to practice these concepts effectively.”
Dr Anthony continues to act outside of his competence and against the interest of cultural and artistic development in Guyana, and obviously has issues with competitive inclusiveness in deciding who gets to benefit from his ministry’s programmes.
First, we had several competitions announced between 2009 and 2011 for children’s writing to be published by the Caribbean Press, yet to date, with no results ever announced, the only child published by the press is the Minister’s younger daughter.
We had the Minister holding auditions for placement on the national delegation for Carifesta earlier this year, yet no announcement was made with regard to the outcome of those auditions, and the event has come and gone.
Now, we have a foreign funded cultural development project and instead of wide advertisement for participation in the media, we learn that sixty people were ‘nominated’, and out of those, thirty were ‘selected.’ I would like the Minister to clarify the process of nomination and selection since, as an entrepreneurial literary publisher, I would be happy to have been part of such a workshop.
I hope this time the Minister sees fit to respond. I asked most recently about the establishment of the Caribbean Press Board promised at various times by Dr Dabydeen, the Minister, and subsequently Presi-dent Ramotar himself at this year’s Guyana Prize awards in September, yet there has been silence from the very man who a few days ago waxed eloquent about it being “important to first make the environment more fertile before developing cultural entrepreneurs.” One would presume that accountability in the management of a state publishing entity would serve towards laying this fertile ground.
I will save the government the time and rhetoric. A competent board will not be established to look over the Caribbean Press because anyone with a basic knowledge of publishing or accounting would recognize the travesty that has taken place with regard to the management of that entity and would either have to condemn it or, against their conscience, stay quiet. From incestuous relations between those in charge and those benefiting from the publication process, to the fact that the Minister until now has not given an account of the number of books landed and distributed in Guyana, the fiasco of the Caribbean Press is a tragi-comedy of errors that would have seen, in more decent and accountable polities in-depth auditing.
This, however, is Guyana under the PPP, where incompetence in public affairs is not censured but rewarded with high office and tenure. Dr Anthony, the longest serving PPP Minister in a single portfolio – if we discount Prime Minister Sam Hinds – has had more than enough time to learn on the job yet what we find is blunder after incompetent blunder, and an increasing aversion to public accountability.
He has ‘mastered’ an increasingly transparent modus operandi of smiling for the cameras and making superfluous statements at events just such as the workshop launch, but running from hard questions like giving a [new] timeline for when the anthologies of local fiction and poetry (said to be “at the printers” in January) will finally see the light of day. I am unsure of whom it is that writes Dr Anthony’s speeches but his rhetoric at press conferences is so far removed from his actual policy as to be laughable. For example, at the launch of the workshop he spoke about the potential importance of cultural industries to the development of the economy, yet the funding from CineGuyana (which has now mysteriously transformed from a state-incubated project to an NGO) has long been pulled, despite the provisions in this year’s budget for ‘Film.’
At the beginning of this year, I made the following recommendation (‘Clear guidelines and criteria for publication with the Caribbean Press need to be established,’ SN, January 9, 2013) with regard to the Caribbean Press and the publication of emerging young local literary talent, something I strongly believe, contrary to Dr Dabydeen, does not exist (exclusively) in the Anthony household:
“Moving forward, I suggest that the Minister… have the ministry host a national young writers’ competition – with integrated workshops – of which the best entries are collected into an anthology.
“The young writers should also be afforded the privilege of having their efforts covered by the state information agency and given prominence in the state media.”
The Minister has ignored that advice as well, so let me repeat that statement with the only alteration being that the Minister should use the launch of the competition to tender his resignation. Dr Anthony’s level of incompetence and his refusal to be held accountable continue to be as absurd as they are embarrassing, particularly considering his grand rhetoric at events at which he is not under scrutiny.