IMPRESSIONS or conclusions about a country are influenced not only by its leaders, people or politics, but also by the physical appearance presented to those who reside within and visit that country.
For instance, national landmarks and infrastructure influence important perceptions of a country, its people, and the state of its governance. Driving through a country, people have their impressions of that country shaped by looking first-hand at its monuments, statues, government buildings, architecture and road networks
In Guyana’s case, some buildings have secured international pride of place, as is evident in the UNESCO World Heritage record. This is so, given the stories behind the era of the buildings and the unique architecture that have made them national and world treasures. And one can read the story of a nation’s evolution and the primacy placed on aspects of its struggles and achievements by looking at its statues. Countries that engage in war and see war as an essential part in winning and maintaining freedom, their military will be given pride of place through statues and monuments representation.
Again, in Guyana’s case, though military war was not part of the people’s struggle, the 1763 Berbice Slave Rebellion leader, Cuffy, is immortalised in a monument as a hero in the fight of the oppressed for freedom. How monuments and statues and their environs are maintained in domestic and foreign environments will tell of the value the people and responsible institutions have for them and their contributions to their society’s evolution.
Outside of the foregoing, emphasis is also placed on buildings. In Britain, Number 10 Downing Street is the Prime Minister’s Office and residence. In the USA, the White House is the President’s office and residence. Here in Guyana, State House, formerly the Governor’s residence, has been occupied by some presidents, and the Office of the President is where the business of the State is managed.
These landmarks have historical significance that exemplify the state of wellness of a country and leadership; and, properly packaged, have been tourist attractions. While in the USA and Britain, these places are a must-see on the tourism calendar, creating a thriving memorabilia industry and helping to maintain the country’s image on the map. This are not without ensuring the architecture is preserved and the sites, in their appearance, are pleasing to the eye.
Guyana’s State House in its present architecture has earned itself a place among the UNESCO treasures. It is to the country’s image and maintenance of this pride of place to have State House retain its architecture, which includes the windows, stairways, rooms, architectural designs and landscape in their original form. Since coming to office President David Granger has ensured tremendous work was done to upgrade this landmark public building. All Guyanese know that prior to 2015 the Office of the President, now renamed Ministry of the Presidency, had become less than pleasing in appearance. The landscape was unkempt, and the various colours were inconsistent with the importance the office represents within the country. In fairness to previous administrations, notably those of Forbes Burnham and Desmond Hoyte, this building and its landscape — including the annex opposite — were maintained and attracted some degree of admiration.
And finally, our roadways cannot be ignored. In addition to roads that were poorly constructed, as evidenced in the undulation and water not being able to have natural run-off during and after rains, pedestrians using the roads do so at great risk.
Roads that have been repaired and new ones that have been constructed, have seen their shoulders left unattended. Pavements have been encumbered, and in some cases reconstructed by residents or businesses, thereby making it difficult for pedestrians to go about their business. Being mindful of the country’s aesthetics and the image we want Guyana to project, it becomes important to pay heed to these elements in the nation’s developmental programme.