Jagdeo should not be doing this
July 25, 2004
For two years in a row the government has dispensed with announcing national awards at the Flag Raising Independence ceremony. This column had raised this issue before asking whether it was simply that the government was too busy or there were insufficient awardees to constitute a national awards list.
I have always felt that the list of national awardees was too long. And ever since the PPP government came to power it has continued to make a mess of things with the dispensing of national awards in confused manner. The Order of Roraima and the Order of Excellence were in my estimation undermined by two controversial selections under the PPP. I certainly felt that the PPP’s liberal dispensing of these two awards affected the very significance and stature of these awards.
National Awards are important. It signifies to those who have served with distinction that the nation considers their accomplishments as worthy and recognises its worth.
The grant of national awards is one way in which a nation shows its appreciation to those who have gained distinction in various fields of public life.
Over the years, the list of national awards has been long. In some instances, previous national awardees have been given elevated national awards for their continued service to the people of Guyana. But the system has also been plagued by controversy especially in the choice of awards given to certain personalities, as mentioned before.
While the controversy would have been sufficient to urge a rethink of the entire exercise, it cannot justify the failure of the State to dispense for two consecutive years national awards. Even with a diminished list, some awards are better than no awards. In fact, one expected that given the trial and tribulations this nation’s citizens have had to endure over the past year, that some recognition would have been in order for those who stayed and served.
I especially feel that greater recognition ought to have been showered on the business community over the past few years for actually staying in Guyana and not doing as was done under Burnham: packing up and leaving in droves. In the past, national awards were dominated by people in public service even though as a sector, the public service was no paragon of efficiency. Some awards were also made to business. With a new political dispensation and greater emphasis on the private sector as the engine of growth, one expected that there would have been a paradigm shift in the selection of national awards with much more emphasis being placed on entrepreneurship.
There were no formal announcements of national awardees in 2003 and 2004. What however is even more bothersome is the fact that instead of formal investiture ceremonies, we have a situation where two individuals were given national awards over the past few weeks, seemingly at the whim of the executive. This is not to say that the persons so awarded in individual investiture ceremonies are undeserving. I certainly feel that the Secretary General of Caricom deserves the award that he has received but I am wondering why he was chosen at this late hour. He certainly should have been granted a national award a long time ago.
Upon his return from his North American trip, the President gave an award to a Hindu religious leader whom he reportedly saw doing good work in New York. Now I do not know this particular religious leader but I am sure that like hundreds of others waiting in the wings, he too may have deserved his national award.
The concern has to be the manner in which these awards are shared out. The manner in which these two wards were granted suggests that national awards are being done in selective manner and at the whim of the government and this certainly makes a mockery of the tradition of each year there being announced national awards at either Republic Day observances or upon the anniversary of our Independence, both of which are fitting occasions.
I am calling on the authorities to issue a clarification as to whether Peeping Tom will be called at the Presidential Secretariat next week to receive a Medal of Service and when Uncle Adam will get his national award. I understand that Uncle Freddie has indicated that when his turn comes, he prefers the ceremony on the Georgetown Seawall.
In all seriousness, this nonsense of the President having individual investiture ceremonies makes a mockery of the whole affair and diminishes the value of national awards. If this continues we should abolish the entire process of issuing national awards and let everyone be a hero in his own mirror.