TRADITIONALLY, December is the season of peace and goodwill.Yesterday, as our nation marked Youman Nabi, the birth anniversary of the Prophet Muhammad, there were universal calls for peace and an end to violent conflicts, especially those being prosecuted falsely in the name of religion.
The Government of Guyana, on that occasion, urged the members of our Muslim community and all other Guyanese to emulate the worthy example of the Prophet Muhammad: to do good for all mankind.
In Guyana, as the month begins, both Government and Opposition leaders have fanned out to various communities to bring cheer and joy to elders, children, and persons otherwise-abled. The message is simple: “Guyana cares for all of her citizens, and encourages those who can afford to share their blessings with others.”
Though our political divide would not any time soon narrow, it cannot escape the conclusion of open-minded persons that our Government has set an example of care and kindness. The Opposition would not share this conclusion, and would wish that it were otherwise. But we have had eighteen months to observe a pattern that this Government decidedly has been giving more to those who have less, or are marginalized. No other areas dramatise this clearer than the raising of the minimum wage and the further broadening of the income tax threshold. For the lowest paid state employees, such as teachers and nurses, the increase in pay — by 26% last year and a further 10% this year — is a blessing. The “blessing” is multiplied by tax-free bonuses given last year and again this year. Old age pensioners and those benefiting from social assistance also continue to count their blessings, though incremental.
No Government has done so much so soon for its citizens, who had been beaten down and off the social ladder through many years of neglect, and who today welcome even small mercies. Parents know the difference when they see their children receiving breakfast and hot meals in some schools, or enjoy free rides in boats, buses, and on bicycles to and from school.
Government has assured that it is laying the foundation for the “good life”, though it has still been unable to remove the cobwebs that have been woven around this vision for many years. We believe that it may not be able to do so any time soon, as our political landscape is still littered with landmines of ethnic appeals and hate speeches, judging from the use — during the Budget Debate — of exaggerated and emotive epithets such as “economic genocide” and “murderation” to describe even the most harmless official policies.
Pursuing peace and achieving the good life have been illusory in many parts of the world. Here, in our own ‘America’, we note the remarks made by Colombian President Jose Manuel Santos as he accepted his Nobel Peace Prize: that “it is much harder to make peace than to wage war.”
In Colombia, conflicts between the state and armed insurgent groups have cost some 200,000 lives. The parties have since laid down their arms and entered into a truce. President Santos has stated that it is a paradox that the victims are the ones who are most willing to forgive, to reconcile, and to face the future with a heart free of hate. We too, all Guyanese, should walk away from the path of hate, and embrace forgiveness, mercy and goodwill.