The two-day National Symposia series earmarked as a main event on the Jubilee calendar opened yesterday at the Arthur Chung Conference Centre under the theme Guyana at 50: Understanding our Independence Journey.
More than 70 presenters drawn from academe in Guyana and abroad are lined up as panelists.
At the opening ceremony, Minister within the Ministry of Education, Nicolette Henry, expressed appreciation to all those who were involved in the planning of the symposium. She also thanked the participants for the role they will play in the symposium over the two days.
“Your presence is an eloquent opportunity to reflect on the journey travelled, to celebrate our collective achievements and strategize the best route forward over the next 50 years,” the Minister said.
While reflecting on Guyana’s attainment of independent status, Minister Henry noted that Guyana’s founding fathers never underestimated the challenges of independence. “Indeed the road we travelled to independence was turbulent, erratic and at every turn frighteningly challenging but in the process of becoming a sovereign state, while it was challenging, we were armed with an accumulated experience of 50 post colonial years,” Minister Henry stated.
The Minister added that the post-colonial journey has been one of bountiful mis-opportunities. “I believe that we have not made good on the independence promise…we have not provided our people with enough space or the opportunities for constructive and productive self-determination as, as a consequence, Guyanese, a people blessed with an exaggerated sense of tolerance are rapidly running short of patience,” Minister Henry said.
In this regard, the gathering was asked to ponder on the key questions ‘Who are we? What has been our journey? What can we become? How do we get there?’
Minister Henry deemed the symposium timely. She said she looked forward to the recommendations coming out of the deliberations.
Explaining the importance of having the intellectual discourse about the yesterdays, todays and tomorrows, Professor Ivelaw Griffith, Vice Chancellor, University of Guyana, called on the gathering to make maximum use of this opportunity.
Professor Griffith noted that this is not a traditional symposium. “It’s not a symposium that only brings together academics to talk academic stuff; it’s an opportunity for us to reflect, interrogate old questions but also to think of legacy – to think of tomorrows,” he said.
He added that the other leg of the series which will be held in New York on June 5, next, will see an interrogation by way of performances in song, music and culture. These performances will depict the things endured in the past, those that are managed now and the things we should think of now.
Among the papers that were slated for presentation yesterday was the question ‘Who Are We?’ Some of the presenters were Dr. Paloma Mohamed, Dr. Nigel Westmass, Dr. David Hinds and Dr. Allyson Stoll.
The afternoon session included a Plenary Panel which featured a Conversation about Security and Sovereignty. The speakers on that panel were Vice President and Minister of Public Security, Khemraj Ramjattan; Brigadier (Ret.) Edward Collins, Presidential Advisor on National Security; Rear Admiral (Ret.) Gary Best; Presidential Advisor on the Environment; Dr. Hilton McDavid, Professor of Business and National Security Affairs and Captain Gerry Gouveia.
The concurrent panels looked at the journey, and science and technology, social, economic and political perspectives on race in Guyana.
In an effort to leave a legacy for those to come, the symposium will be recorded and live streamed. The various papers will also be collected and compiled into a white paper. This legacy will also include writing about Guyana by non-Guyanese.
Professor Griffith also expressed gratitude to those persons who have been working on making this event a success.
The Jubilee National Symposia Series is viewed as an important step in building trust and national cohesion. It is anticipated that a Jubilee Declaration will emerge from the symposium and will be forward looking and will inform a sustainable national strategy and work program aimed at making our collective history and aspirations accessible.
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