Remove fear, hate, envy and mistrust

Dear editor,
Our country’s multi-ethnicity has long been a cause of political and social upheavals. Indeed, many have used this ethnic diversity for their own political and other gains; and in the process, the results have been bad for us all.

History records that it was our colonial masters who were the first to use this diversity for their own political and other gains. History also shows that the historical circumstances under which our forefathers arrived in this country were not of our making, and this aspect of our history, like our ethnic diversity, cannot be changed.

And so, if we are serious about achieving unity of this diversity, it is incumbent on us to seek to remove the feelings of mistrust; this hate, this envy that is often exacerbated and used before, during and after elections.

An examination of the political events of the 2015 post-election period would reveal, inter alia, the wanton dismissals and terminations of the services of thousands of workers, including 2000 Amerindian Community Services Officers, by the APNU+AFC Government for reasons that could only have been described as ‘politically wicked’ and rooted in Amerindian majority support for / loyalty to the Peoples Progressive Party. And this course of action was taken without considering the nature of the Guyanese workers’ work or the resulting benefits to the institutions, agencies, and communities for whom they provided services.

As little kids, we play, sing, eat and sometimes even sleep together. But as we grow older, the people and the institutions that influence our thinking and behaviour and redefine values begin to take over. Many parents in the home, some teachers in the school, the neighbour next door, the older workers at our workplaces, the Trade Unionist, the politician and yes, some pastors and priests in the church; many of whom do not stand out as the pinnacle of good and exemplary behaviour which they seek to represent to us and, sadly enough, many of us who have been living in harmony begin to develop a fear and mistrust for each other based on a factor we had no control over: the fact of our ethnicity and based on the hate teachings of some in our society to whom I alluded above.

My friends, we must stop listening to hate preachers, or we will all suffer. We need to get rid of the stereotypical thinking that racists have engendered in us and its halo effects, which cause Blacks to believe that East Indians are responsible for their economic deprivation when often it is the choices we make; that Blacks are responsible for every crime committed; and that Blacks are extravagant while all Indians are stingy. We may never have a society free of ethnic tensions and suspicions, but we must make an effort to achieve a wholesome society for all of us.

Like rational human beings, we all want the best for ourselves and our families, our organisations, and our groups, but we need to recognize and accept that while we have a right to ‘the good life’; so do the other people nearby and next door. We must also respect their rights and their cultural diversity. All of us must be involved. We must see ourselves as agents of change. Thus, the government has an essential role in facilitating and accommodating the PPP’s involvement and, may I add, an important role as a change agent, and an experienced one at that, in the development of Guyana. Approximately 233, 336, or 50.69 per cent of Guyanese voters, by their votes at the March 2, 2020 general elections, affirmed their confidence and trust in the PPP and the PPP/C government, and we must never lose sight of that fact.

Let’s start in the home. Parents/guardians can make a difference by setting the right example. Install good, hate-free values in our children. Spend quality time with our kids. They learn by seeing and observing what we do and by listening to what we say. The conduct, arrogance, disrespect and hostility displayed by many of our youths towards adults; the racial slurs hurled by many could only represent the learned behaviour the latter would have inculcated in their homes, schools, and communities. And sadly enough, adults to whom they often look for guidance would have been the teachers.

At school, through Family Life Education, among others, we must help children develop the capacity to live in peace and harmony with and to love and respect each other’s culture and religious values; to show racial tolerance; to deal with emotions; to handle peer pressure and to make their own decisions. Family Life Education must focus on character education, on attitudes, behaviour, moral values etc., providing our children with the capacity to live in peace and harmony and to show love and respect for each other.

The role of the church must go beyond the singing of hymns and praying, important though they be. The church’s role must be redefined to include influencing thinking and positive behavioural change, not only by conventional methods but also being good examples to their congregation. Many are they who are very vociferous on the pulpit and portray characteristics that must be similar to that possessed and displayed by some of Jesus’ disciples. Albeit off the pulpit, the antagonist and questionable attributes they portray must have been similar to that displayed by Judas Iscariot. These are not good examples of laudable human behavior. Many were overtly hostile to the Peoples Progressive Party as if the Almighty had delegated the task of passing judgement to them.

My friends, we may never have a society free of ethnic suspicions and tensions, but we must make a special effort to achieve this. Integral to the desired behaviour changes we seek is the work of the political parties among the people of Guyana. We must all carry the same message intended to benefit all and not some; for the task before us is to govern our multi-ethnic nation. In this regard, there is a very important role for the People’s Progressive Party. After all, the PPP has always been at the forefront of every effort to improve the quality of the lives of the Guyanese people. Let APNU+AFC be also reminded that over 50 per cent of the Guyanese voters indicated by their votes on March 2, 2020, that they have confidence in the PPP’s ability to deliver further improvements in the lives of the Guyanese people.

The late President Nelson Mandela of South Africa said: “No man is born hating another because of the colour of his skin: it is learned behaviour, and we must therefore teach our people to love”. Collectively we must work to remove the fear, hate, envy and mistrust that stalk this dear land of ours, or talk of change is merely what it has been thus far: mere empty talk devoid of any intent to deliver but intended to keep some people’s hopes and expectations alive.

Norman Whittaker
Former Minister of Local Government and Regional Development

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