guyana chronicle December 28, 2017

AS we come to the end of the year, it is customary to look back at the events of the past year and begin to plan for the new year. This past year has been yet another eventful one for our country in all areas of national life — from politics to economics to our seemingly endangered social fabric.

But as we have done in the past, we have survived these inevitable challenges. Inevitable, because none can doubt that our unique history has saddled us in these Caribbean spaces with the persistent challenge of overcoming and surviving the harsh realities of a world in which we are not the major movers and shakers.

The year 2017, unfortunately, witnessed a further deterioration in the relationship between the government and the opposition. To those who express surprise at this development, we wish to remind the nation that this is one area of national life that has not been our most sterling. The responsibility, of course, must rest with our politicians on both sides of the aisle. Have they tried hard enough to improve this very delicate area of our existence? The answer has to be a resounding no.

The year ended with the bizarre scenes in the National Assembly where elected members traded decorum and decency for partisan political spectacle—a development that would forever tarnish the image of our nation. While the chief violators came from one political party, it is the nation that bleeds. These members come from our society; they are socialised here in Guyana. The nation must therefore ponder the deep nature of its political soul as we move into another year of seeming uncertainty.

We take this position of collective responsibility not to excuse the ills of the perpetrators or to sully the image of the other side, but to draw attention to a gathering storm that cannot be good for our country. And that storm is not the product of just our politicians; our citizens are equally culpable. By our silence or cheerleading we contribute to the decay which in the end bury all of us in shame.

We live in an age of instant technology that bares every piece of dirty linen far and wide. Our children and our detractors see this tragedy and may well come to believe it is the national norm. In such circumstances, condemning the errant MPs is not enough. The situation warrants a serious look at the soul of the nation.

When one couples those scenes in parliament with the recklessness on our roadways and the wanton killings, it is difficult not to conclude that we are in the presence of something bigger than a minor storm. And the nation must not settle for anything less than a collective commitment to beat this national dysfunction. Leadership is much more than playing to narrow partisan sentiments—it must include example that can pass the test of what it means to be upstanding in the face of God and man.

Our political parties–all of them—must learn from the stiff rebuke of the rest of us that there is much more to life than the fortunes of the party. We, citizens, must stop cuddling leaders and parties who by their distasteful actions compromise the dignity of all of us. We must develop the broad, popular praxis of holding our leaders to the very highest standards regardless of how we vote. In other words, we must stop enabling bad governance and leadership in the name of political loyalty.

Our hope for the new year is that citizens show more political backbone and stand up for a dignified Guyana over undignified leaders and political parties. Parties and leaders come and go, but the nation must survive. We have come too far, have endured too much to surrender to the worst in and of us.