On the afternoon of May 25th, in what was a departure from the custom, the Golden Arrowhead was hoisted at D’Urban Park in an event specially scheduled to accommodate hundreds of children. The matinee flag-raising was not the only departure from custom; there was a far more egregious one and one for which an accounting is still to be given by the authorities. Instead of the customary five colours, the extra-large flag boasted a sixth hue, a forest green strip on the side that rides on the wind.
Given the solemnity of the occasion, the re-enactment of the day in 1966 when Guyana gained its independence from the United Kingdom, one would have expected that the flag that ascended the flagpole in the presence of the President, who is also the Head of State and the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, would have been in pristine condition and in compliance with its constitutionally inscribed dimensions. It was not.
The national flag, as one of the pivotal symbols of the state, is referenced in Article 4 of the Guyana Constitution and described in detail in the Second Schedule of that document. The Second Schedule says in part: “The green background symbolizes the agricultural and forested nature of Guyana.
“The white symbolizes its waters and rivers potential.
“The golden arrow symbolizes Guyana’s mineral wealth and its forward thrust.
“The black border the endurance that will sustain the golden arrow’s forward thrust into the future.
“The red triangle represents the zeal and dynamic nature of the nation building that lies before this young and independent country”.
Each colour in its right proportion and placement is pivotal to the integrity of the flag. The appearance of the dark green strip was therefore reprehensible and should not have been permitted at all. It may have been that the flag may have begun to show signs of deterioration or was fraying at the edges. Whatever, the reason, and it is still to be provided by the Ministry of the Presidency or those who organised the ceremonies, the flag with the additional hue should not have been permitted.
Article 7 of the Constitution speaks to the duty of all citizens of Guyana to respect the national symbols. The representation of the flag on the afternoon of May 25th did not convey this respect and must have confused children who have had to learn the details of the national standard in their social science classes.
The dark green strip may have been a well-meaning attempt by someone involved in the ceremony to remedy some defect but what about the superior to this person and the others in hierarchical order? Were they not aware that there was a gross breach and defilement of the flag integrity and one that should not be countenanced in the gaze of the hundreds of schoolchildren, citizens and foreign dignitaries present?
The departure from the flag tradition is all the more galling as just days before there was justified and fervent indignation at the appearance of maps without the county of Essequibo including on the website of the state-owned newspaper, the Guyana Chronicle. This elicited a stream of nationalist sentiment and a statement from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs deploring the mutilation of the map on the occasion of the independence of the country. Both the flag and the map are equally sacrosanct and demanding of the most fastidious reverence.
The interloping green also attracted the ire of the opposition PPP which pointed out that that shade has long been associated with the PNC – now the PNCR and the main component of the governing APNU+AFC coalition. The opposition party harked back to the period of the PNC’s history where it flaunted paramountcy of the party and its flag flew at the Guyana Court of Appeal.
While one strip of dark green on the national flag may not be enough to ponder a case of the re-asserting of paramountcy it would be remembered that the advent of APNU+AFC into office was accompanied by a veritable flood of efforts to remake colours in the likeness of those of APNU and the AFC. This was compounded by President Granger’s inexplicable decision to repaint State House in the hue of green associated with APNU and dismissively brushing it off with the remark that all of Guyana is going green. The Ministry of the Presidency has also been visited with the same jarring green and was at one point also to be favoured with a sliver of the AFC’s canary yellow. That colour scheme was apparently canned.
Three years on, the governing coalition has exhibited troubling signs in various arenas which require closer examination including its disposition towards decisions of the court. For now, it must explain its bungling of the colours of the flag and ensure that there is no repeat of this.