THERE is nothing wrong with Guyana that cannot be made right by Guyanese. Addressing or righting challenges require acknowledgement that a particular issue is offensive or has debilitating consequences for the people in a multicultural nation living in comity; and where every individual or group can feel an important and valued part of the society.
One of the first things that has to be tackled head-on is the level of intolerance and hostility people show towards each other. This is not only manifested in the culture among road users, notably motorists and every-day interactions, but also from least expected quarters. Civility, respect for self and the other, requires a level of decorum among citizens and officials, elected and appointed. In the instance of citizenship, while it is not the intent to litigate when incivility started going downhill, it is time to arrest and restore it to where Guyanese were known for their courtesy.
At the governance level, intolerance towards citizens asking questions of office-holders ought not to be, given that citizens are exercising their civil duty.
While the World Bank has elevated Guyana to an “Upper Middle Income” economy, they are still too many who are considered poor and deserve to be given the opportunity to rise out of poverty. Targeted policies and ensuing programmes can address these in a systematic manner. Where government has shown inclination in this direction such is welcomed, and more.
In the 21st century, where other countries of diverse demographics are openly having frank and honest national conversations about divisive issues such as race and gender, Guyana cannot afford to lag . These can only be addressed by talking about them, accompanied by policies programmes and laws to ensure equality in treatment, complemented by requisite data-gathering to support efforts. At the same time it ought to be said that issues such as race and gender should not be used to condone wrongs or put square pegs in round holes, lest such make mockery of achieving equality, which is premised on justice and fair play.
Our internecine political conflict can no longer be blamed on the colonial authorities or on Cheddi Jagan and Forbes Burnham. While the enslavers and colonisers facilitated a system of ‘divide and rule’ to keep groups apart for their self-serving ends, this country has been independent for 50 years. Both Burnham and Jagan have been dead for decades and the fact that there continues to be conflict based primarily on race, the time is now when personal responsibility dictates doing something to fix it.
Scepticism, restlessness and hopelessness among the young and resignation on the part of the elderly, societies two most vulnerable groups, cannot be ignored. Whereas the former require opportunities to unleash potential and serve their country, the latter desire to be treated with dignity and respect in their golden years. The historical culture of this society has shown our capacity and capability in these regards and to this reservoir of experience we must return and apply.
Migration hurts efforts at indigenous growth and development, since very often our most skilled and educated are among those who leave, placing the country at a disadvantage of needed human capital. Where opportunities for employment and economic opportunities are not seen or known, hopelessness can step in and flight takes place.
In recognition of the pressing challenges, it is welcoming news that the Ministry of Social Cohesion last week held its validation workshop. Given that the planners’ aim is to provide an understanding of social cohesion and assist stakeholders to understand their roles in enabling the process, the nation will look forward to positive outcomes/results.
All Guyanese are important and ought to be treated as such. Each demographic has unique and common needs, finding that, conceptualising and developing policies and programmes with such recognition, along with the stakeholders’ inputs can help the society confront its challenges. By disposition, Guyanese have a determined and resilient spirit. Many of our talents and skills continue to be used for the development of other countries and these can be turned inwards and for our collective development here. We must aspire and work together to achieve.