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18 October 2017

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Mashramani
(Aired 25 February 2004)

On Monday 23rd February 2004 I took my family to a friend's house on Church Street and we watched the "Bands" pass by for 5 hours. It was a nice sunny day as we watched the proceedings, I went there as a husband and father not a commentator but after watching for less than one hour I borrowed a pencil and a piece of paper and started taking notes.

  The slogan for this mash event was Unity, Beauty and More in 2004. This event was heavily sponsored by the government and more than 90% of the "Bands" I saw were sponsored by the various Government Departments. If this was an attempt at unity it was a complete failure. I saw more white people in the bands probably consultants to the various Ministries jumping up in the hot sun than I saw Indo-Guyanese, there was even a few Chinese from the Chinese association and New Thriving which was part of the Hits and Jams band but the first thing that struck me was the complete lack of Indian support for this event. I went to Carnival in Trinidad on many occasions and the "Bands" are equally comprised of Indo Trinidadians jumping as high as their Afro Trinidadian brothers and sisters. So who are we really fooling?

   From my notes I see that the first "Band" I started writing about was the Ministry of Home affairs, the theme of this band was "Heavenly Harmony" there were no Indo Guyanese in this band only Afro Guyanese and they were costumed with arrows and bows depicting, god knows what, and I had to ask myself what were they celebrating? Was it the 300 odd members of their kind which were sent to meet their maker in heavenly harmony over the past two years by the Ministry of Home Affairs' death squads?

   The next band was GAWU whose slogan was "Linking the Roots Together" I presume that this meant linking the various ancestries of the country together, but the members of the band were comprised only one colour root, and it was the wrong colour, given the membership of GAWU.

   Then came the Ministry of Finance the members, again all black, of this "Band" gave me the impression that they were not enjoying themselves, they were bored and hardly jumping up obviously there under some kind of constraint just like our lazy, constipated economy.

    Then came the Ministry of Local Government, Region 1 had a small float with some sort of mound with two crabs on top of it, I wondered if these two crabs represented Collimore and Nocta. I looked at the bands and the floats of all 10 Regions and even region six East Berbice I did not see one Indian represented as living there. Surely I told myself this cannot be the reflection of the population from Region 6.

   Then came "slingshot" Drapaul now I must confess that I don't know who slingshot is but this Band had around 20 people it and had the redeeming quality of being at least one company putting some private funds back into the country, where were the other big companies owned by non Guyanese NBIC, Grace Kennedy, Neal & Massey etc., they only taking out, they aint putting nothing back????

   The next local band I took note of was UNO Carib Cash also one the few private companies taking part. But they clearly ran out of money in the costume department, since most of the women were not given enough costume material to cover their backsides properly, shame on you UNO. The Ants band had the same problem they ran out of money and could only afford to buy panty hoses for the girls.

   Then came the highlight of the day for me, the Ministry of Agriculture's acting Minister Shaw was the only visible Minister I saw that day on Church Street, and I said to myself that this Satadeo is a cool guy, but then right in front of me, Sat stopped and asked a black man who was camped at the side of the road if he had any rum to spare?  What happen Sat you didn't bring your own rum? The theme of the Ministry of Agricultural band was rice in abundance, but I did not see any rice farmers participating.

   The only breath of fresh air as far as the revellers were committed and seemed to be enjoying themselves were the Hits and Jams contingent and the Carib beer contingent the Afro Guyanese which comprised all of the government departments seemed to me to be self conscious of the fact that they were in bands sponsored by a government which has by and large not been kind to them. Some of them even looked apologetic for taking the liquor, the costumes and the music given to them for free to celebrate Mash.

   The most hilarious part of the day for me was the Ministry of Health their main float depicted a head, half white and the other half black; the black half was obviously a skull whilst the white half was only the lord in heaven knows what! perhaps it was the bust of Minister Ramsammy, it was ugly enough to represent him, I asked myself why the skull part was not white [that is after all the usual colour of a skull] and the Face brown or black, it seemed very at odds with what I conceive a skull's colour to be, has anyone ever seen a black skull? The only thought that came to my mind for this two sided skull was, bring us your healthy and we gon kill them for you.  

  But I will say this, the section of the Ministry of health's band labelled nutrition had some of the heaviest babes that I saw mashing all that day, some of them weighed more than me and I weigh 200 pounds.

   Then came the KFC contingent, like the Didco chicken it was a little on the light side, the equipment of the band speakers etc weighed more than all of the people mashing behind it, they had less people than Prittipaul Singh's band in which I counted around 20 people.  

  DDL put their best foot forward with the Red Square band but even though I saw in the newspaper that Banks DIH contingent was in the Hits and Jams section of the band, I was, however as an onlooker, not able to determine where they were.  

   The PNC's band was pathetic it condemned Gajraj and called for an independent inquiry but they had less people than KFC marching, if this is a tribute to the organisational skills of the PNC, and the commitment of the opposition supporters to bring this outrage under investigation, then we are in big trouble.

   To sum up therefore, the afro Guyanese took the free drinks, the costumes and the music supplied and they had a ball, about time too, the government's efforts to get support from their constituents to join Mash for unity crashed as was the PNC's ability to mobilise their supporters to condemn Gajraj.

   The private companies' participation was very disappointing this was a government sponsored propaganda event, I hope that financial appropriations were properly allocated to organise it, or we will hear from the Auditor General next year.