Those national awards
After nearly a decade, there has been the announcement of national awards. The last time there was such an announcement was at the turn of the century. Ever since 1971, it had become traditional that national awards be awarded every year to deserving Guyanese, all of whom had made some significant contribution to national development.
The announcements were made on the eve of the republic anniversary and handed out in May during the independence anniversary.
After 1992 the new government made the announcements in May 1993 and held the investiture ceremony on October 5 to coincide with that party’s accession to the seat of government. This was the case for a decade. Then suddenly the idea of national awards went through the window.
At first, there was the announcement that the crime wave that hit the country when five notorious prisoners fled the Camp Street jail on Mash Day 2002 had forced the postponement of the national awards.
Indeed, the crime wave was to continue for four years and for those four years there were no national awards except to three dignitaries, one of them Dr Compton Bourne who was heading the Caribbean Development Bank. He was awarded the Order of Excellence and the posthumous award to Dr Cheddi Jagan, the Order of Liberation. The rally announced that this would be a one-time award so that no other individual would ever be so honoured.
The army and the police combined to put an end to the crime wave, and later to track down the many gangs that the crime wave spawned. Yet the national awards were not announced although people close to the Rally of the Orders would only say that awardees were being identified.
A few weeks ago word went out that there would be a return to the policy of announcing national awards during the observance of the independence anniversary. This was not to be. We now know that the announcement was made via the print media over the weekend. There was a deliberate plan on the part of the government to exclude Kaieteur News from the list of awardees.
There is a reaction to this in the pages of this newspaper. But back to the actual announcement of the national awards.
People like to be rewarded and recognized for their efforts. During the rough days farmers who went the extra mile, went even further when they were invested with a national award. It was something that they held close to their hearts. They were acknowledged by their peers and they felt good that the nation had recognized them.
So once again there will be national recognition. Many people have been singled out. The Prime Minister heads the list. He has been bestowed with the Order of Excellence. He may very well be the longest serving Prime Minister in the history of the country. He may also have been the person with many portfolios, including the challenging energy sector. Yet one must wonder whether that duly qualifies him to hold the nation’s highest honour.
There are others who seem to have been awarded on the basis of political fealty. We will not examine the names in this forum because they have been printed elsewhere. Suffice it to say that it seems as if the national awards are being used to reward people for political loyalty.
People may argue that this is not the case since there are others who might have been associated with other political parties. Yet the cynics would say that those from the other political parties were added precisely for the reason of detracting from the real political awardees.
Many of the people mentioned in this year’s national awards have done nothing spectacular from our point of view. Attorney General Charles Ramson gets the Order of Roraima but his predecessor was ignored. Did Doodnauth Singh perform less effectively than Ramson? Perhaps he missed out because he threatened legal action to get monies owed to him by the state.
If one were to examine the list one is left to wonder why President Bharrat Jagdeo was not also awarded. In our book he did more than any of the other awardees for Guyana. He is leaving office perhaps this year.
Farmers who braved the worst to provide food; contractors who defied the odds, reporters who faced every obstacle and so many other deserving people have been ignored. Perhaps this is the year of the politicians and sycophants.