CARIFESTA X protests described as unpatriotic

GEORGETOWN, Guyana, April 25, 2008 – The Bharrat Jagdeo administration has described as unpatriotic, attempts by Opposition parties to disrupt the opening ceremony of the 10th Caribbean Festival of Arts (CARIFESTA).

The event, which will be held from August 22 to 31, was launched Wednesday under the theme ‘One Caribbean, One Purpose, Our Culture, Our Life’, but was interrupted by a group of mainly women representing the opposition political parties who chanted “No CARIFESTA” at the beginning of the ceremony.

The incident followed threats by Leader of the main opposition People’s National Congress Reform (PNCR), Robert Corbin, to make the event “unmanageable”.

Head of the Presidential Secretariat and Cabinet Secretary Dr Roger Luncheon described the move as very unusual.

“This is one of the most unusual developments by the Opposition political parties who seemingly have decided to raise the political ante by moving into actions including protests, which are perfectly legitimate, but to go to the extreme to what Cabinet has described as profoundly unpatriotic activities,” he said.

Dr Luncheon further questioned the motive of the protests – the opposition’s allegation that freedom of the press was being infringed by the suspension of the broadcast licence of CNS Channel 6, following the multiple re-airing of a show in which a caller said she would kill President Jagdeo if her children were hurt in the crime wave affecting the country at the time.

“Even if the allegation were to be established, which I think is not possible…are we now dealing with as par for the course, situations where that type of response would be deemed appropriate?” he queried.

The protest action did not stop the CARIFESTA launch from proceeding, and President Jagdeo in fact emphasized the importance of government and opposition working together to ensure the event is a success.

“We have a responsibility as a country that initiated the festival …and therefore we want to make CARIFESTA X a festival with a difference. We want to expand it beyond its traditional scope. It is not enough that we meet in the region and share this rich culture that has become our legacy and our patrimony among ourselves. We have to showcase our culture to the wider world and therefore I have taken the decision that we will go beyond the Caribbean,” he said.

“We see CARIFESTA as more than 10 days of events, but as a catalyst that will spur our region into a new vision of itself, to demonstrate that we are more alike than we are different and to search for new ways of linking ourselves together through the arts. This underscores not only the importance we attach to the festival but to the ideal of Caribbean unity,” Jagdeo added.

He also told the gathering of dignitaries and participants that the festival would attract visitors and participants from as far as Venezuela, Brazil, China, Morocco and Austria. 

“I can assure you that we will have more foreigners in Guyana for the festival than we had for World Cup Cricket. We have also decided that we want to involve all Guyana,” the Guyanese leader declared.