February 22, 1998
One cannot help but feel that this year's Mashramani, at least, has echoes of the past. The ushering in of republican status was timed to coincide with the beginning of the 1763 Uprising. (They got the date wrong, it should be February 27, but no matter; it is around the right period, and does mark the day when 73 Magdalenenburg slaves decided enough was enough.)
The revolt of 1763, however, despite its scale was not a cohesive affair. It started off unified enough, if one discounts the fairly large body of slaves who were attached to the company which owned the colony, and who remained slaves under both Coffy and Atta because they distrusted them.
Within a matter of weeks, however, cracks were beginning to appear in the revolutionary ranks, and those cracks eventually widened to become unbridgeable gulfs. The story of 1763/1764, therefore, is a story of internecine war, as well as a story of war against the Dutch.
And here we are in 1998, on the cusp of the next millenium, engaged in the traditional internecine wranglings. One set of Mash revellers, if such they can be called on this occasion, will be tramping in one direction, and another set, who refuse to combine with the first set, will be tramping in another.
And then we have these convoluted exchanges about what constitutes an invitation and whether someone who had been nominated by the opposition at the time of Dr Jagan's administration was really not invited to sit on some Mash committee or the other this year or whether he was really invited but the invitation was just not delivered because he could not be contacted at an address where it was expected he normally would have been contacted.
It's all enough to cross a moulvi's eyes. Or a bishop's. Or a pandit's. The long and the short of it is, of course, that the Government should have gone out of their way to make absolutely certain that the PNC representative on the Mash committee received his invitation, and whether or not he received his invitation, the PNC should have gone out of their way to ensure that no counter Mash tramp took place.
Since we can safely write off this Mashramani as far as the spirit of unity and genuine revelry goes, perhaps we should start thinking about the future of the festival. In this week's Catholic Standard editorial it was suggested that a permanent apolitical Mash committee be set up to run the annual celebration. Excellent idea.
Perhaps too we should start considering as to how in future we can begin creating something which is unique to Guyana, rather than offering an impoverished man's version of the Trinidad carnival. One possible way to go, as has been suggested before in these columns, is to forget about the adults altogether, and concentrate on creating a really stunning children's march.
For some time now the children's contribution has been the outstanding feature of the Mashramani holiday, although they have never had the publicity for their efforts which they deserve.
A children's tramp on a more lavish scale than at present, would be unusual, and would allow all the bickering adults to come together to create something which would make us stand out in the region, and, in due course, might even attract tourist interest. After all, after the fiasco of this year, youngsters certainly could not do worse than their elders.