It is very unfortunate therefore that when he and his party of MP’s arrived at the newly baptised “Jubilee Park”, there were not enough seats assigned to them. After waiting more than half an hour, they departed because they saw it as a snub. While the Minister responsible for organising the event later offered an explanation for the occurrence, and even if all she said was factual, at best the arrangements betrayed a total lack of planning on the part of the government.
While we may not be able to measure up to those nations whose origins hark back to their “hoary” pasts – because our Indigenous Peoples had a totally different world view on land and “ownership” – our fiftieth year of Independence from colonial Britain is a most significant milestone.
The APNU/AFC government within its first year of assuming office, after 23 years of the PPP governing Guyana, threw almost its entire attention on celebrating the Jubilee Anniversary of Independence. It could be they were emphasising their lineage with the PNC, to which independence had been granted and which ruled Guyana for a total of 28 years. But in doing so the government implicitly also offered a possible reason for several faux pas they have committed during the present week of celebrations. To wit, lack of experience in the exercise of power after their long sojourn in the opposition benches.
The most significant one occurred at the event that was the raison d’être for the entire celebration. This was the raising of the Golden Arrowhead as it had been hoisted for the very first time at midnight of May 25/26 1966, after the British Union Jack was correspondingly lowered for the very last time. While the instruments of independence would have already been signed, to a nation that had been ruled for three and a half centuries by a succession of exploitative European countries under the most brutal circumstances, this was a most significant moment.
The poignancy was captured at the inaugural ceremony when Dr Cheddi Jagan, leader of the PPP, rose from his seat and embraced Mr Forbes Burnham, leader of the PNC who had been awarded the Premiership after constitutional changes in the electoral system that even the British conceded were “fiddled”. Dr Jagan swallowed whatever bitterness he might have harboured over his ouster, because he understood in the grand scheme of things, Guyana was moving forward.
Fast forward to the present and we see the successor to the leader of the PPP, Bharrat Jagdeo promising to the government, in his last speech to the Parliament two days before May 26, the cooperation of his party to build a better Guyana because of “patriotism”.
It was explained later, for instance, that six stands were reserved for the performers of the entertainment provided for the Float Parade the following day. It was the same Minister that made that provision. In the same manner, a section of the stand allocated to the Opposition leader could have been reserved for the MP’s of his party and the guest each of them was permitted.
With their inexperience in governance, as was intimated, the government might be given the benefit of the doubt for the snafu. However, the minister’s pained “explanation”, which intimated the Opposition was the cause rather than the victims, vitiated her apology and gave credence to the latter’s interpretation that a snub was intended.