After all the debate I maintain that the Guyana Prize for Literature should be scrapped

Dear Editor,

I am delighted to respond to Mr  Al Creighton’s letter `Guyana Prize took variety of initiatives to assist writers living here’ in the July 12,.2018 edition of Stabroek News.

He responded to my question about the delay of the award ceremony for last year, that’s a year now lagging, citing a lack of funding from the government. How does he expect me to know that? May I ask? Yet he compares this incompetent prize to literary awards abroad.

This Prize was established in 1987 by President Hugh Desmond Hoyte when this nation was actually the poorest in the Western Hemisphere and one wonders why this Prize for Literature in a starving nation.

Maybe Desmond Hoyte had a motive to invite the literary brains that migrated abroad for publication and literary exposure. Hoyte had a political motive behind the Guyana Prize for Literature that’s why this new administration should scrap this Prize and use the money to educate our young scholars.

Since the inception of the Prize in 1987 Mr.Al Creighton has been the Secretary and Administrator of this Prize for 30.5 years. I don’t know of any award in this world where they will ever retain the service of one man or woman for over thirty years and he is not even a born Guyanese.

My major contention about this award was the clique of judges alternating as judge one year then entrants-winners the next year monotonously like a perpetual ‘’yo-yo’’ and he has the mind to tell the Guyanese people that this practice of judges becoming entrants is a normal procedure with literary awards abroad. That is absolutely ridiculous this man is deceived. In my opinion, any literary award in the world where judges are alternating as entrants is a fraud that needs to be scrapped. If the Nobel Prize committee can award Bob Dylan above Sir Wilson Harris that is very questionable. Sir Wilson Harris was cheated by the Nobel Committee. 

In 1987, the very first year in which the Guyana Prize was established, Dr. Ian McDonald, distinguished literary critic, and author, was the Chairman of the panel of judges and a member of the management committee. In 1992, Dr. McDonald became an entrant for the prize and emerged a winner in the poetry category with his collection of poems–Essequibo. He subsequently entered again for the prize in 2004 and won the award for the second time with his poetry collection–Between Silence and Silence. He has won the prize four times as a former judge and Chairman of the management and he can win again. His entries should be disqualified but for Al Creighton it’s ok so it means if Mr Creighton should resign as the secretary for thirty years he can submit an entry and win the award next year.

Editor, I am currently a judge for the Queen’s Commonwealth Essay Competition 2018. I was sent a twelve-page judging criteria for this award from Cambridge University that’s very confidential. No one in my family read it and no relative or my children is an entrant. So as a senior judge how will it look if I submitted an entry next year for this award? I cannot because I am barred from entering.

In closing, I wish to quote from a past Guyana Prize winner Ryhaan Shah from her Guyana Times Sunday Column July 22 captioned `’Revamping the Guyana Prize’.’

‘’The Prize appears to be controlled by cronies who alternate as judges and winners, thus keeping the prize and monies awarded within a favoured clique. I had no interest in having my work judged by a prize committee whose integrity was questionable’’.

It takes a very honest mind to pen these words after reading this debate between myself and Mr Al.Creighton.

For the good of this nation this government must do the honourable thing: scrap the Guyana Prize for Literature.

Yours faithfully,

Rev. Gideon Cecil

(Author, Poet & Literary Critic)

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