– Minister Norton says he has reports that organization “not being run as it should”
The future of Guyana’s most prestigious literary award, the Guyana Prize for Literature, may be in jeopardy.
Minister of Social Cohesion with the responsibility for Culture, Youth and Sport, Dr. George Norton says that he is checking reports that the Guyana Prize “is not being run the way it should be.”
The Guyana Prize for Literature was postponed last year. So far, there has been no indication that the awards will be presented this year.
“I am not in a position to say if it is being scrapped, I have been trying to get information and some information I have received says it can’t be business as usual, some changes have to be made,” Dr. Norton told Kaieteur News in a recent telephone interview.
“Some of the information that I have, which I can’t verify is that things are not going the way it should…I am getting the impression that there were some areas that were not too specific, and as a result , some people may consider them as not being fair and above board.”
According to Norton, “a lot of money was invested” in the Guyana Prize… “money that the Administration would find hard to come by; and if we spend money behind a prize, we would have to ensure that we get value for our money….we have to do more research to ensure that we are getting value for our money.”
According to the Minister, one of the objectives of the literary award “was to encourage young writers to write. What we don’t want to do is continue with a system that does not attain the goals and objectives of the Guyana Prize.”
Some local writers have questioned the manner, in which the Guyana Prize is awarded, with some complaining that overseas-based writers have an advantage over writers who reside here.
In a recent letter in the Kaieteur News, one local writer, who said he has submitted several entries over the years, highlighted what he claimed were flaws in the Guyana Prize Management Committee.
The writer questioned the fact that a number of former Guyana Prize Judges were allowed to submit their creations.
“In 1987, the very first year in which the Guyana Prize was established, Dr. Ian McDonald, distinguished literary critic and author, was the Chairman of the panel of judges and a member of the management committee. In 1992, Dr. McDonald became an entrant for the prize and emerged a winner in the poetry category with his collection of poems, Essequibo. He subsequently entered again for the Prize in 2004 and won the award for the second time with his poetry collection Between Silence and Silence. He has won the Prize four times, was a Former Judge and Chairman of the management committee, and he can win again,” the writer stated.
“In the case of the Booker Prize, the Cohen Prize, the IMPAC Dublin Literary Award, etc. his entry would have been disqualified since he was a former judge for the award, but the Guyana Prize has no such rule.”
“It is my opinion, like any other literary awards in the world, all these former judges who became entrants for the Guyana Prize should have been disqualified,” the writer added.
He also suggested that “the prize must be in different categories and age groups. The works of writers living abroad should be judged separately from manuscripts.”
However, others have argued that allowing local and overseas contestants to compete together will ensure that winning entries are of a high standard.
Speaking about the postponement, the writer added that “the deadline for submitting to the Guyana Prize was March 31st, 2017 with the Awards Ceremony slated to be held in July last year. We are now into May 2018; about ten months past the awards ceremony due date, and writers are still waiting in blind hope to be informed of the Prize Short List and Awards Ceremony date.”
The postponement has also led to some local and overseas-based writers questioning the present Administration’s commitment to the development of Guyana’s cultural industry.
The Guyana Prize for Literature was inaugurated in 1987 by the late President Desmond Hoyte.
The objective of the Guyana Prize is to “recognize and reward outstanding work in literature by Guyanese authors at home and abroad.”
Caption: Minister of Social Cohesion with the responsibility for Culture, Youth and Sport, Dr. George Norton
Caption: Guyana Prize Winner Harold Bascom
Caption: Guyana Prize winner : David Dabydeen
Caption: Dr. Ian Mc Donald
Caption: Ruel Johnson: The youngest writer to be awarded the Guyana Prize
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