The postponement of the parliamentary debate on corporal punishment was not 'an anti-climactic conclusion'
Stabroek News
December 12, 2006

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Dear Editor,

An article on page 14 of the Friday, December 8 Stabroek News referred to Chantalle Smith's request for a postponement of debate on her motion against corporal punishment as "an anti-climactic conclusion after several civil society groups and prominent individuals rallied their support around the motion." In similar vein, an article on page 3 of the Chronicle of the same date spoke of the "anticipated fireworks" turning into "a damp squib."

Those of us who organized the extra-parliamentary support for the motion don't share this view which, with all due respect, is both short-sighted and narrow; and we owe it to the scores who've signed on to the letter of support (we now have over 100 names) as well as other Guyanese to explain why.

It goes without saying that we find it both outrageous and sad that whether or not to beat children so they can 'hear' and 'learn' and 'behave' is still a subject of debate. But because it is a subject of debate, including among the political parties in Parliament, it was a step forward for a motion to be proposed that was not hedged around with all kinds of compromises and excuses for inaction; and, of course, it could not be introduced on the basis of an all-party consensus because no such consensus exists at this stage.

But by last Thursday morning, the day the debate was to be held, it was clear not only that the motion had generated significant public response in its favour, but that the motion and the support for it organized largely by women had helped generate some movement and dialogue between Parliamentary party members, who were responding with proposed amendments. We know this because Ms Smith was respectful enough of those of us not in Parliament who were supporting the motion in her name to consult with us. It was our collective view that there was not enough time to work with the proposed amendments and that postponement was the best option - not for six months but for a maximum of six months. We in turn were able to inform those on the picket line outside Parliament what was likely to happen inside Parliament. Far from feeling let down we felt that we had helped achieve something important: while we were there several MPs from different parties came up to indicate solidarity with us and to say that they were thinking and rethinking.

Corporal punishment should be abolished immediately; as one of us said, every day we wait there are more children brutalised in the name of discipline. But we have work to do to achieve the goal of abolition and we intend to do it. Many of us have been campaigning for years and we believe that the campaign can now take on new life. We will work with anyone, inside or outside of Parliament, who shares our commitment and our sense of urgency.

Yours faithfully,

Andaiye for Red Thread

Josephine Whitehead for Help & Shelter

Denise Dias for Mothers in Black

Kala Seegopaul for National Spiri-tual Assembly of Baha'i's

Rev Patricia Sheerattan-Bisnauth for Church Renewal, Justice & Part-nership, World Alliance of Reformed Churches

Omattie Seaforth for EveryChild Guyana

Rolinda Kirton & Treena Dundas for Spirit of Guyana