An unstable society Editorial
Stabroek News
September 19, 2002

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On reflection, it may seem a matter for some surprise that our young country is still in one piece. All former colonies have found the transition to independence more difficult than anticipated but in our case there have been features that have led to an unusual degree of instability, in particular our getting caught up in the cold war in the sixties leading to imperial intervention, allied to ethnic division (at one stage linked, indirectly, to that intervention) and the resulting insecurities.

The pressures have if anything got worse. In the last five years our society has been under intense strain. Numerous public political protests, some without police permission, most without proper monitoring or control and ending in chaos and attacks on citizens, have done much to damage the basic civic respect for the rule of law that is so essential to stability. The talk show phenomenon with its unbridled language, its cultivation of ethnic distrust, its rabid attacks on judges, policemen, politicians and others, its encouragement with apparent impunity of libellous and sometimes treasonable remarks openly broadcast on prime television viewing time, has done enormous damage and helped to create an atmosphere of anarchy.

After a while, it begins to seem that anything goes, you can say anything with no downside. Everything is up for grabs, pot shots at public personalities become the order of the day, radicals with no ideas advocate desperate solutions and all demands and the language in which they are couched are extreme and confrontational.

Guyana is at the moment in a state of instability where all the existing institutions ranging from the executive and legislative machinery, to the disciplined services to the judiciary are under severe pressure. The need for some kind of political dialogue to deal with the main immediate issues has never been more urgent. The current efforts of civil society deserve the strong support of us all.

The rule of law has to be upheld for any society to progress. Every time there is a slippage, be it a breach of the building laws or the throwing of rubbish in public places, or the flagrant breach of traffic laws, or uncontrolled public protests or destabilising television programmes, the situation becomes more difficult. After a while, the impetus for disorder is so great that it seems impossible to resist it. That sort of situation is conducive to the emergence of criminal activity, it creates a permissive atmosphere in which violent crimes seem almost like a natural extension of the prevailing anarchy.

The rule of law has been under threat for some time. For as long as that situation continues it will be impossible to build a nation. Nothing solid can be built on such shifting sands. Moreover, those who cannot tolerate the hatred that has been engendered and the anarchy, will leave, as has already been happening, further reducing the human capacity to deal with the many outstanding problems. Already, a number of important jobs in many sectors cannot be properly performed due to a deficiency of human resources.