We are still in our Jubilee Year though the ceremonies and celebrations put together to mark the 50th Anniversary of Guyana’s independence have passed and gone without matching the hype and hoopla that had been attached to the buildup to the event.
Whether or not the milestone found us with a great deal to celebrate will probably be debated by the writers, mostly historians, who, hopefully, will at least record the occasion for posterity. At least, some might venture, we managed, over those years, to hold ourselves together as a nation-state, with some effort, some might say, given the historical division of race and the ebb and flow of the attendant national tensions. Still, when account is taken of the fractious condition of international relations characterized these days by terrible and costly loss of life and even the threatened disintegration of states, an argument can probably be made for us being fortunate.
Conversely, some analysts might argue that the continued absence of any real coherence in our political culture was manifested in the fact that there appeared to have been little if any exchange across political lines on what form the most important commemorative event yet in the country’s history, might take. The point was made too that the intervention of politics and a change of government just a year away from the milestone robbed us of time for planning; so that while the visual images of our Jubilee celebrations still persist in our consciousness in the form sun-baked, rain-soaked Golden Arrowheads and Jubilee logos that continue to adorn the exterior of public buildings and motor cars, the planning and eventual execution of the programme was, in many respects, underwhelming, reflecting a dutiful commitment to the commemoration of a milestone rather than a spontaneous and unbridled outpouring of joy. We needed much more than a few months to put the whole thing together.
It was a good thing that the diaspora celebrated with us, their participation, in various ways, rejecting the much-articulated notion that those Guyanese who we have made home elsewhere have literally cut themselves off from the land of their birth. Unquestionably, one of the most important occurrences of the Jubilee ‘season,’ was the sight of those of our long-exiled countrymen and women ‘living it up’ during the days of a long-planned return from their exile. Whether the surfeit of patriotic enquiry as to how else Guyanese living abroad can put in to take Guyana forward will amount to anything more remains to be seen.
A great deal of the public participation came down to the revelry in the streets on May 26th and if the liveliness and legitimacy of the Independence Day street revelry cannot be denied questions were raised as to whether there ought not to have been a more contemplative dimension to the Jubilee, comprising perhaps, events that offered opportunity to ask ourselves searching questions about just what was there to celebrate after fifty years, beyond the passage of time.
There are those who would contend that May 2016 caught us still in the middle of the post-elections cat sparring that has become par for the course in Guyana, manifested in Commissions of Inquiry and forensic audits and probes of one kind or another. The post-elections recriminations had not gone away. Would that the mood was more genial, the environment more convivial.
We had arrived at half a century of Independence still engaged in rhetorical debate over the same issues…………race, the allocation of political power, gold and oil and Guyana’s economic potential, whether or not free education has worked and how to make Guyana the bread basket of the Caribbean.
It might have been a good thing to pause and to contemplate these issues. They might have at least served as a barometer with which to determine just how far we have traveled. Half a century is not a period of time to be trifled with and we perhaps could have been more reflective in our commemoration.
Why? One assumes that the 50th Anniversary of the country’s independence is a fitting a time as any to take stock of where we are and perhaps to set ourselves some goals, even if not for the next half a century, perhaps for the next twenty years or so.
There had been talk in small circles about whether it might not have been a suitable juncture to have the political parties engage each other to have a tilt at the same old political agenda………race relations and the broader issue of healing the racial divide, a pursuit with which we are simply making no meaningful headway.
So that at the end of the day the question that arises has to do with how encouraged we really are to look beyond the celebratory aspects of the Anniversary programme and whether or not there is anything in the way of meaningful momentum that we are taking forward.