Nay, the dust should not settle on the nation’s tribute to Philip Moore, citizen, humanist and artist; notwithstanding his interment at Auchlyne.
Last November 2011, I had the honour to be invited to open the 23rd annual exhibition of the Guyana Women Artists’ Association. Among other things, I stated, while Philip Moore was still among us:
“There is always a special feeling when we stand alongside works of art. We are elated, reserved, pensive and somewhat diminished. That is the authority of great works of art as they impart powerful themes and morals.
We know that as we stand alongside the works of, say, Michelangelo’s sculptural masterpiece of David in Florence, or Aubrey Williams’ profound and expressive Olmec and Timehri murals; Philip Moore’s redemptive and African inspired 1763 Monument; Marjorie Broodhagen’s meticulous attention to nature; Stephanie Correia’s sensitive and touching pen portraits; or O’Donna Allsopp’s picturesque and inspiring details of rural Guyana.”
The refined and revealing appreciations, in prose and verse, of the life, work and, particularly, contribution of Philip Moore that continue to come from some eminent citizens affirm the great respect that a number of us hold for this highly accomplished and perceptive artist. Surely, after forty-six years as an Independent state, a grateful state could have paid tribute to this outstanding citizen without dispute or prevarications.
In the prevailing turmoil of duplicities and falsehoods, he lived, worked extensively and died in Guyana without any taint of dishonour or disrepute. At a time of continuing exodus, he stood his ground for eight decades and rallied around the state. He was a shining example of simplicity, humility and serenity. Yet his creations were profound, always exploratory and with an amazing degree of endurance.
The modern state has long since deemed it necessary to establish strict rules of protocol to honour its leaders and eminent citizens at death. The Leader of the Opposition, Brigadier (retd.) David Granger, has adverted to the urgency to formulate guidelines to accord to persons of distinction the appropriate respect at death.
Generally, the modern state reserves state funerals for heads of state or heads of government. Though, at the discretion of a head of state or government, a state funeral may also be accorded to important persons of national significance. Other categories of ceremonial funerals that are currently in use are: military funerals for members of the disciplined services and official funerals for other distinguished personage. There is a military content of varying intensity in each category.
The honour of a state/official funeral is essentially the state’s way, not the only way, of expressing appreciation on behalf of all citizens to an individual for the exemplary contribution and services to the state and to its citizens. The honour does not and cannot bestow greatness upon the individual who would have already earned it during his or her lifetime. Thus the occasion ought to be a rare one and not every day. By any rigorous yardstick, Philip Moore has earned such official recognition.
Rules of protocol for these state occasions can easily be crafted for each category; they do not have to be exhaustive at the commencement as they can be modified with time. They should however be very strict. Moreover, they do not require the establishment of any committee to bury the matter and should certainly contemplate citizens outside the realm of politics.
Recently, on May 16, Mexico afforded a state funeral for its acclaimed novelist, Carlos Fuentes. Also, in March, Jamaica held an official funeral for Justice Carl Rattray, and in May, Dominica for Ambassador Charles Maynard, both of whom are fairly well known here.
There are varying customs about initiating a state funeral. Two examples from the Commonwealth will suffice. In the United Kingdom a motion or vote in parliament is required; though not for a ceremonial event. In Canada, the Governor General-in-Council normally takes the lead, though the House of Commons has voted for such funerals. Now, to enlarge a suggestion from Bro. Eusi Kwayana, in the absence of rules of procedures and in accordance with the wishes of the Moore family, the National Assembly, in an emergency session, could have proclaimed an appropriate public ceremonial funeral for Philip Moore.
The interment of his remains at the Seven Ponds Monument, the Place of Heroes, or elsewhere, is a separate matter. The wishes of Philip Moore and/or his family would be definitive in any consideration and the National Assembly is obliged to respect them. This determination remains open. Regrettably, a recent sarcasm about parliament taking care of the dead is just another indication of the churlishness that intrudes critical discourse.
State/Official funerals that involve the general public without hyperbole provide a useful pause for meditation and reflection on, inter alia, one’s relationship to each other and to the state. Philip Moore would have liked that aspect. Against the dissonance, cant and spin enveloping our consciousness, a moment of introspection could be soothing for the citizen as much as for the state.
Cedric L Joseph
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