by Sharief Khan
OPPOSITION parties are calling on former US President Jimmy Carter to again intercede with President Desmond Hoyte to help prevent rigging of the coming general elections.
The WPA yesterday faxed Carter urging him to dispatch a mission to help thwart possible fiddling with the electoral roll through house-to- house enumeration which begins in one week. Opposition Leader Dr Cheddi Jagan has also written Carter advising him that the ruling PNC is attempting to “sabotage and derail” electoral reform agreements he reached with President Desmond Hoyte last October.
And Elections Commission Chairman Sir Harold Boilers yesterday slammed down the telephone, refusing to “make any statement to anybody from Stabroek News”, after this newspaper tried to get him to respond to opposition fears about the voter registration. Chief Elections Officer Mr Ronald Jacobs could not be reached to react to complaints from the PPP and WPA about obstacles to their involvement in the registration.
PPP spokesman, Mr Moses Nagamootoo, said the Carter Center and other observer groups planning to monitor the coming poll should “take an urgent hand in light of what is happening”. He and WPA spokesman, Dr Rupert Roopnarine, separately pointed out that Carter Center had participated and assisted in voter registration in Panama and Nicaragua to ensure accurate lists were drawn up.
Nagamootoo said Jagan has informed Carter by fax that government’s alleged “delaying tactics” and side-stepping the agreed reforms are “creating an unstable political situation”. Jagan has also asked Carter to return to Guyana “as soon as possible”.
The PPP and WPA have had informal talks on strategy to tackle the registration and Roopnarine said his party was trying to assemble scrutineers without getting vital information from the Registration Centre. Both parties have no idea about how the scrutineers will be allowed to work. “We do not know, for instance, if one scrutineer will be allowed for each registration officer, or each division,” Roopnarine said.
The PPP, up to yesterday, had received no reply from Jacobs on several points its representative, Mr Feroze Mohamed, wrote him on. The PPP claims the Elections Commission and the Registration Centre have breached regulations for the enumeration including sub-dividing and distinguishing Registration Districts.
It also points out there is no public information on the number of enumerators to be employed, the number of registration divisions and the demarcations of each district. “This situation has made it almost impossible for the PPP and other opposition parties to appoint and properly place their scrutineers”, the party charged.
Jacobs now has six days to receive the lists of scrutineers from parties and to provide ID cards for them. The PPP pointed out, “given the time factor and the vast areas to be covered in some regions, as well as considerable transportation and communication difficulties, it is clear that one will be hard pressed to get ID cards into the hands of scrutineers in time”.
Roopnarine said the WPA yesterday faxed a “very long” letter to Carter setting out the “foot-dragging and bad face” on the reforms Hoyte had promised. He said the WPA urged Carter to have his Center be in on the house-to-house enumeration from the beginning to end.
Unless the Center does this, “they are not likely to see the kind of political administrative climate under which we have to operate,” he said.
I was hopping mad when the audience roared with laughter
By Desiree Wintz
JASPER ADAMS was a reluctant Pontius Pilate in a play staged in church when he was a kid. His costume consisted of his mother’s bedsheet that was folded twice but still engulfed his scrawny body. As he rapidly reeled out his evidence against Christ, sweat, the unbearable heat, and a sense of impending doom engulfed him. If anyone had stared into a crystal ball and foretold that he would have made a living from acting, he would have preferred to be shot.
Then, in 1972, when Doris Harper Wills put on a show with a cast she drew from North and South Georgetown Secondary Schools, Jasper was chosen as one of the narrators. It was a good show, he recalls, now that he is older and knows better; it was a show that featured poetry songs and dance. But, that time he forgot his lines. And one of his friends compounded his confusion by whispering ‘uh hum’ (translated, ‘I knew it would have come to this’).
There was one good moment, however, the time when he starred as Jomo in “Freedom of the Soul”, a play his teacher, Mr. Arlington Bankroft had written in honour of a Schools’ Drama Competition. You could call it a Musical, Jasper said, it was a good play and they did their best. They won third place because Queen’s College also took part, and Queen’s had Andre Sobryan. Kwesi Oginga was also there, as a teacher, though, of a school in Buxton.
Jasper, as a child, loved to sing. Anywhere, at anytime and in any volume. And if that weren’t bad enough, he liked to drum, too, on anything. He had a sense of rhythm, he said, defending his actions. “I really liked singing. I remember, when I was a kid, my grandfather and I went for a stroll and he asked me, in the way most grandfathers do, what I wanted to become when I grew older. And with all the innocence and exuberance of a child, I told him I wanted to be a singer. I saw the disappointment in his eyes and thought that perhaps I had made the wrong decision.”
That didn’t stop him, though, from trying for the National Youth Choir led by Edith Peters. He made the grade, praising Ms. Peters’ ability to ‘make even a frog sing’. But after a show at an International Girl Guides conference he gave up – on account of the ‘sweltering brown crimplene suits in the midday sun’.
But he still drummed on the bedheads and on the backs of chairs, seeking for a rhythm in everything. “music in ebbing and flowing and coming and going and making ‘what goes around comes around’ a motto in life.”
Life’s issues were something he had to face. Once he was trying out for a part in a play his sister had dragged him into, and was humiliated when the teacher of drama bellowed to him to use his ‘male voice’. But, he didn’t have a male voice yet and was so embarrassed that he wanted to quit the play.
At that time, too, he was coming to terms with Christianity and at an Inter School Christian Fellowship camp held at Camp Madewini he became born-again.
His wish to be part of the crowd was far stronger than his Bible beliefs, and he abandoned it.
Soon, his self-consciousness at being short and puny fled, too, because one day he realised that he was able to see what was on top of the refrigerator. Almost everything else after that was all right.
After school, he didn’t choose to be part of the formal workforce. He did leathercraft with a relative instead. It was nothing big, he just wanted to be creative. “I made a hair-slide, though. It wasn’t anything that could be put in a museum, but I was proud of it.”
Then ‘Saturday Night Fever’ hit Guyana and Jasper wanted to dance. The ‘fever caught him being a drummer to one of Howard Daly’s classical dance classes. He joined the radical branch that practised in the Moravian Church and soon was able to use the dance steps to show off in a disco.
He became hooked. In 1979 he joined Theatre Guild’s dance workshop where dwelt the greats like Claire Amsterdam, Malcolm Hall, Desiree Ali, Sandra Stewart, Roy Emerson and Andrea Douglas. Jasper was awed! “ Hall was the most fantastic choreographer I had ever seen. Howard Daly was fresh and innovative and we were working hard but having fun with what we were doing.” The Dance Company was formed. “I still think,” Jasper said, that the first ‘Dance season was the best ever. There was ‘Don’t Cry for me Argentina’ a bit of genius done with only a chair and a stepladder for props; Ghetto Child, which chronicled the life of a baby abandoned in a ghetto who grows up to be a drug addict and a prostitute.”
How he danced then! In 1981-82 he toured North America and did Suhani Raat clad in a dhoti at the Ottawa National Arts Centre and hoped that his dhoti wouldn’t fall off. The mayors of Georgetown (Mavis Benn) and Ottawa were in the audience. Jasper also represented Guyana in the Pan Caribbean Theatre Company’s ‘Theatre Focus,’ as an actor, singer, dancer and drummer.
Acting came, though, when Ron Robinson saw him in the dance class and was convinced he had a ‘face for comedy’. He danced the dying swan of Swan Lake for the Link Show, it was calling the ‘Dead Duck’.
“I also had a small part in ‘The Purchase’ in February 1980, and other parts followed. Soon I decided to become a full time actor. My parents cushioned me. They probably bought the ‘struggling young actor’ bit. Theatre to me was awe inspiring. It held a special magic. I just thrilled to be with Ron Robinson, Margaret Kellman and Ian Valz. I got to understand and appreciate that there is more to theatre than acting.” And since, as he says, he is by nature a very inquisitive person, he learnt a lot.
His first lead was as a clever psychopath in ‘Mouse Trap’ a role he performed admirably well, though he claims he was not ready for it. And besides he had to act alongside veterans like Margaret Kellman and Christopher Dean. But by the time the lead in ‘Smile Orange’ came along he was well established as one of the better actors. But he also, by then, was afflicted with ‘the curse’ -being typecast.
Theatre audiences had come to accept him as a comedian, something he couldn’t throw off even when he tried. Like the time he acted as an African student in ‘Raisin in the Sun’. “It was a perfectly serious role at which I had to work very hard. I had problems at first because I wanted the lead. I even came to a heated argument outside Xanadu with director Ian Valz over it but he insisted Ron Robinson should have it. I also had to learn an African accent, an African accent cultivated in America. I borrowed the clothing, an ‘agbada’, a long green robe, from Adeola James and worked at copying the rhythm in her speech. When I had done all that I was more than hopping mad when the audience roared with laughter when I appeared on stage. I hadn’t even spoken a word.”
He had other problems, too, like portraying the black man in ‘GlooJoo’, a play he’d rather not discuss. Another time in ‘Amen Corner’ he looked into Margaret Kellman’s eyes, felt sorry for her and forgot his lines, the reason he gives is because of her superior acting skills, and her ability to make you believe, a quality he describes as ‘jumbie’.
Jasper plans to migrate soon, only for a while, he was quick to point out. He doesn’t have his sights set on Hollywood or Broadway. He intends to study Cultural Anthropology and return home. He will be missed by theatre goers.