All it requires to halt the decline in this country is will and self-respect. The nation is met with the news, after departure, that the President left for South Africa on Sunday, December 8, to attend Nelson Mandela’s funeral. This contemptuous treatment of the citizens has become a norm in this society. The President and the Leader of the Opposition hold the nation’s two premier political and constitutional offices. By virtue of these offices they are expected to set the tone for the society to embrace universal acceptable norms, principles and courtesies, values that are key to nurturing positive human and national development. The holders of these offices are elected by the people and paid by the people. But what we continue to be subjected to is constant disrespect, yet at the same time they expect us to embrace universal values.
As children our elders taught us the cardinal principle of doing unto others as you would like them to do unto you, and nurtured us on values with the expectation that as we grow older we will not depart from them. In the realm of public leadership such is extended to being respectful of the people to whom you have offered yourself to serve and are being paid to so do. The universal ethic of accountability by office holders is being replaced with an attitude where they think they have no duty to inform the nation prior to departure, including the nature of the visit and, on return, submit a report.
If we recall our childhood we would remember our elders admonishing us that such behaviours are unmannerly and anti-social. Our family, religion and community were/are the moulding blocks for who we are and later become. Lest we forget, this ethic was upheld by former leaders, namely, Forbes Burnham, Cheddi Jagan, Desmond Hoyte and Robert Corbin in some instances. The people of this country must stop settling for less when we know better and deserve better.
And the composition of the President’s delegation is a reminder of everything the man to whom he is going to pay homage fought against, ie, the absence of humility and rights and the presence of political/racial divisions and pettiness. Where other countries in paying homage to the life and work of Mandela have reached across the political aisle, Guyana remains mired in political crassness. Trinidad’s Prime Minister has reached out to the Leader of the Opposition to be part of that country’s delegation. The United States already announced that all its living presidents shall form its delegation. Regardless of what one may think, the PNC, which is currently in opposition, is the party that was in government which led the way in mobilising this nation in the anti-apartheid struggle and contributed to paving the way for Mandela’s release from prison and his ascension to the presidency.
Our leaders’ approach to governance is more about making good sound-bytes. These bytes are very rarely supported by actions. The President’s correct articulation of what Mandela stood for and made his life’s work is unfortunately not being emulated in his management of the nation’s affairs and the treatment of its people, in as much as he said these qualities are deserving of emulation.