The event to commemorate the 100 birth anniversary of Valerie Rodway together with the naming of a state building after her is one of the refreshing mementos to have emerged since the birth of discomforting tensions that generated by the no confidence vote.
Ms. Rodway was related to one of the political activists that had deep influence on me – Brian Rodway of the Movement Against Oppression then the Working People’s Alliance. There is no question about the resemblance. The honour bestowed on Ms. Rodway was soothing in that it transcends partisan politics and ethnic quarrels. It centers on the lady’s excellent contributions to the culture and art of our country.
Since the demise of the Burnham era, successive governments have displayed philistine ignorance of the great personalities of Guyana. The reason has to be more than esoteric as to why Desmond Hoyte is not given a street name.
The absurdity becomes even more unnerving when you think that the Convention Centre is named after Arthur Chung and the small airport at Ogle after Eugene Correia. As a historian, academic and social activist I can only use harsh language to denounce those who continue to shape this country in ways that are insulting to a very young population.
One’s wrath should be reserved for the governments that the PPP led from 1992 to 2015. That is twenty-three years yet in that period central government didn’t do anything to honour those who should have buildings, streets and scholarship in their names.
Shiv Chanderpaul Drive was the idea of the then Georgetown Mayor, Hamilton Green. It was not done by central government.
One of the men who wanted to be president of Guyana, Dr. Frank Anthony, was Minister of Culture. Even if Anthony knew his party would frown on honouring Desmond Hoyte, then what about personalities that have no controversial aura around them? Maybe you can forgive Anthony.
He is a practising Hindu and perhaps didn’t know that one of the singers that got international fame in the eighties was Eddy Grant. Maybe Frank didn’t listen to that kind of music. You can’t blame people for the music they like. I am not into hip hop, dancehall vibes and rap.
Everything, even finding a discarded pair of dilapidated shoes on the roadside, involves political tussles and ethnic competition in Guyana. Anthony would not have dared touch Desmond Hoyte. The current administration would not entertain an ephemeral thought of naming something in Guyana after Walter Rodney or Father Andrew Morrison.
But there is a neutral pathway. Guyana has many Valerie Rodways. The sad thing about it is that from 1992 onwards the people who can let the current generation know of some outstanding personalities this country birthed are simply not interested. Saint Lucia within days of Darren Sammy’s Twenty 20 World Cup victory as captain of the West Indies team changed its national stadium in his name.
These personalities are many. You don’t have to look far. There is no counterpart to Yesu Persaud. He has gone beyond Peter D’Aguiar as Guyana’s foremost innovative entrepreneur. From DDL, Yesu went into founding Guyana’s first indigenous commercial bank (Demerara Bank), then founded an outstanding small loans agency (IPED) then into charities. Why is nothing named after this icon?
Once I am writing on this topic the name Ron Robertson has to be mentioned. I think this is about the third time, I have advocated the urgent naming of something after this prolific contributor to the arts in Guyana. I don’t think the politicians on both sides of the ethnic, political and cultural divide should have a problem with three names – Persaud, Robinson and Grant.
There are more. JOF Haynes is one. The Guyana law school is to be named after him. That should generate no controversy. But the birth of the institution is in doubt. This man was simply a brilliant jurist.
Rohan Kanhai has not been treated well by successive governments. This guy inspired a generation of cricketers. You have Lance Gibbs Street. That is superb. You have Clive Lloyd Drive. That is great. You have Shiv Chandrapaul Drive. That is most welcomed. But why is Kanhai missing? Isn’t this more than mysterious?
Some roadways in Guyana have no names and these streets are heavily used. The first street east of Conversation Tree Road has no appellation attached to it. This road begins from the highway from the northern side where there is a Rubis gas station. Rubis, when it was Texaco, bought up a famous hotel for its construction right on that spot. That name is gone from the present generation. Why don’t we name the street after that hotel?
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