Everyone should be brought to the table on cultural policy

Dear Editor,


I’d like to thank Albert R Cumberbatch for his kind words in relation to my receipt of a Prince Claus Fund grant (‘Kudos to author Ruel Johnson,’ KN, May 24). Unfortunately, although of late honorary doctorates seem to be given out on the scantest of premises, I regret to inform Dr Cumberbatch that I am not in possession of a doctorate; I am a humble University of Guyana dropout who writes books and is interested in cultural policy.

I am heartened to hear of Dr Cumberbatch’s views on the need for a national cultural policy, although I am not in the least bit surprised that his overtures to the Minister of Culture have “fallen on deaf ears.” Dr Anthony’s record on every aspect of his portfolio, but in Culture in particular, has been one that has been marked by gross incompetence, resistance towards any sort of accountability, and a stubborn refusal to accept honest and intelligent interventions.

Dr Anthony has been sitting on a draft National Cultural Policy document for the past seven years. In the wake of my criticisms, he has been furiously playing catch up. However, typical of the PPP’s governance philosophy, the process had been marked by a tendency towards exclusion of competent people and pandering to sycophants and non-critics; as such it has been patchy and wrought with failure. For example, in November of last year, Minister Anthony hosted a ‘Business Lab on Cultural Enterprises’ – funded by the Israeli government – in which participants were exclusively selected by persons close to the ministry and government; nothing tangible has come out of that engagement. Two months ago, participants were also hand-picked for remunerated participation in a workshop on cultural industries, one I turned up and took part in without invitation – participants were promised a report coming out of their contributions in about two weeks after the event but predictably there has been no such report to this day.

My method of engagement is different. Starting in July, over the next year I will be putting in place a programme that brings everyone to the table, inclusive of government. At the end of the process, with or without the ministry’s input, a core cultural policy draft and white papers on related issues will be put into the public domain and handed over to the National Assembly so that informed decisions on culture as a critical element of development can be made.

I find it abysmal that the Minister of Culture, a public servant on taxpayer dollars, has to be taught how to do his job by a private citizen, but I nevertheless intend to do it. Dr Cumberbatch and anyone interested in contributing to the process can visit us on Facebook at Facebook.com/JanusCultural or e-mail us at janusculturalpi@gmail. com.


Yours faithfully,
Ruel Johnson
Janus Cultural Policy Initiative

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