Solution to national malaise lies in our hearts and minds
- Bishop George

Stabroek News
May 13, 1999

Anglican Bishop of Guyana, Randolph George, has said that constitutional reform as a process will only produce effective mechanisms if the political will is present at the level of the politicians and personal convictions among the rest of us.

Delivering the charge at the end of the 127th Annual Synod of the Anglican Diocese of Guyana held at the Mothers' Union Day Care Centre in Queenstown on May 5, Bishop George said that "we tend to disparage the politicians" but asked "are they not the mirror of ourselves?"

Speaking on a number of societal issues, the Bishop said that political life at the present time repels rather than encourages involvement. "A certain coarseness is fast replacing the courtesy and sensitivity which traditionally lubricated our national life", he said, "adding that this has the effect of making differences more abrasive".

Because politeness is fast disappearing, he said there is a willingness to believe the most outrageous slander and above all everything is interpreted in a political or racial manner. "Aggressive behaviour, character assassination and acrimony characterise public life", he added.

Noting that most constitutions are written following one upheaval or another and that while conditions under which the country's reform exercise is being undertaken are by no means ideal, the first requirement is that "we should be intensely conscious of ourselves as Guyanese. But more and more events are inclining us to think of ourselves as Indian, African, Amerindian, as worker and employer, as young and old."

He noted, however, that the concept of identity is a central issue in the tensions the society now faces. He said that we tend to vest nations with identities as with individuals. He said that as Guyanese we felt ashamed over the recent cricket hooliganism at Bourda during the fifth one-day international between West Indies and Australia while on the other hand as Guyanese we felt proud to see University of Guyana students perform so well among their Latin American counterparts at the recent model OAS General Assembly.

Being "Guyanese" has become a liability in some Caribbean airports because Guyanese are assumed to have certain characteristics, he noted. Because we carry our national past around with us we are led to ask ourselves a number of questions, one of the more serious ones being, "How can we save the national soul, seek reconciliation with each other and rebuild the national image?" The Bishop said that in asking these questions South Africa comes to mind as an example of a nation which has come to terms with itself, and transformed the society from one rejected by the great majority of individual South Africans, to one with which they are now proud to be identified.

Pointing out that truth commissions have helped in addressing past abuses committed by dictatorial governments, he asked "how do we address a situation such as ours where we are not always dealing with facts and events but more often than not with perceptions".

Answering the question, he said that the solution to the national malaise will not be found primarily in constitutional mechanisms and institutions but in the hearts and minds of individuals.

He said that "as Christians we have a duty to keep alive the vision of a Guyana where all the gifts and talents and resources now devoted to conflict and division are devoted to cooperative and positive measures for the good of us all and especially those among us who live on the edge of survival."

He continued by saying that "we have seen the improbable happen in South Africa and this should be a good reason for not giving way to blanket pessimism even when the outlook appears least promising".

A page from:
Guyana: Land of Six Peoples