PRESS RELEASE From the Leader of the Opposition Tuesday, April 22, 2008

The Leader of the Opposition notes with interest a statement attributed to Minister of Culture, Youth and Sport, Frank Anthony reported on page 2 of the Guyana Chronicle, today, April 22, 2008, in which the Minister is alleged to have deemed, Corbin statement on Carifesta X, “irresponsible, potentially disrupting to national life”.

The Leader of the Opposition wishes to suggest to the Minister that his time would be better spent advising his President:
• to cease disrupting the peace of mind of the thousands of Guyanese who have been denied their constitutional rights to freedom of expression by the arbitrary and unjustified suspension of Channel 6 licence for 4 months;
• to free Oliver Hinckson who has been locked up in prison with unsustainable charges and with continuous postponement of his trial;
• to immediately pay to the hungry Guyanese workers an immediate cost of living relief to cushion the effects of the spiraling cost of living, compounded by the draconian VAT. This may be a better way of spending the windfall obtained from the Value Added Tax than wasting it on celebrations, that cannot put food in the stomachs of the hungry people in the country;
• to seriously address the problems of sugar workers in Berbice who have been on strike for more than week because they cannot survive on the meager wages paid by GUYSUCO, neither can they survive on the empty words uttered by the Prime Minister to them since then;
• to use some of the money allocated for the entertainment budget of Carifesta for drainage and improving the infrastructure of the villages on the East Coast of Demerara so that they can, indeed, grow more food;
• to ensure that there is equitable access to the state-owned NCN television and radio by Parliamentary Parties as agreed since May 6, 2003, in the signed Communiqué between President Jagdeo and the Leader of the Opposition;
• to expedite enactment of Broadcast Legislation so that an Independent National Broadcasting Authority will administer the Wireless, Telephone and Telegraphy Act and remove it from political control.

The presence of these issues in Guyana is doing more harm to the Carifesta environment than anything the Leader of the Opposition could ever say. The Leader of the Opposition wishes to make it clear that he has made no threats. He has merely stated what is a fact of life in Guyana that, unless these human rights, Rule of Law and bread and butter issues are settled, the environment would not be conducive to the management of any Carifesta.

The Minister should know that it was under the PNC Administration of Linden Forbes Sampson Burnham that the first Carifesta was held in Georgetown in 1972. At that time, it was the PPP which spearheaded a boycott of the National Cultural Centre, which was built for Carifesta 1972, on the grounds that no money from the Indian Immigration Fund should be used for its construction. Perhaps, Frank Anthony was still in ‘short pants’ at that time, he can be enlightened by retired MP, Pandit Reepu Daman Persaud. The PNCR’s commitment to Caribbean integration and to the development of culture is therefore beyond dispute.

The PNCR is therefore very qualified to give Mr. Anthony a lecture on the benefits of Carifesta and how it could be successfully organized. The first prerequisite is to have a coherent policy on culture and a dynamic and well-organized programme to promote culture and art forms in Guyana. This includes expenditure in the promotion of arts, drama and other cultural expressions, promotion of indigenous music, including steel bands, tassa and congo drums, etc.

The showcase should then be a well-organised Guyfesta from which the best of our talent can emerge for participation in a Carifesta celebration. Despite all the talk by the Government about their interest in Carifesta X, nothing has been done over the years to demonstrate this deep concern or interest in the promotion of culture. The reality is that there is political manipulation of our cultural talents as a smoke screen to cloud the unconstitutionalities, illegalities and dictatorial behaviour of the PPP/C Administration. It is hoped that Guyanese artistes will not become victims of this vicious political manipulation and demand their full pound of flesh from the PPP/C Administration for any use of their talents.

Minister Anthony must also demonstrate his capacity to manage such an event. For e.g., the first information PNCR MPs had of the launching of Carifesta in Guyana was an advertisement in the local media three days ago, perhaps, after the PNCR had raised the profile of the event by its statement.

Minister Anthony must therefore explain to the nation why invitations to the official launching ceremony were only dispatched to the Leader of the Opposition and PNCR Members of Parliament yesterday (April 21), twenty four hours before the event. This is indeed an insult to the purported theme, “One Caribbean, One Purpose, Our Culture, Our Life”, and exposes the hypocrisy of the PPP/C Administration and Mr. Anthony about their genuine concern about Carifesta.

Office of the Leader of the Opposition
People’s National Congress Reform
Congress Place, Sophia,
Georgetown, Guyana
Tuesday, April 22, 2008