Guyana Resource Center
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The Guyana Human Rights Association (GHRA) is calling on all religious, social and political leaders to explore how to build a reconciling dynamic into all of the nation's activities.

"Without this ingredient it is difficult to see how isolated proposals or events, much less gimmicks, can generate the traction needed to move the society as a whole to more respectful and dignified ways of relating to each other. Business as usual, albeit in a softer tone, is no longer sufficient," the GHRA declared in a recent press release.

And according to the human rights body, the complexity of the country's situation lies not so much with finding technical solutions to the variety of problems it faces, but with a poisoned environment created by an accumulation over decades of toxic political abuse and neglect. In this environment, nothing now seems to take root or find traction. As with polluted rivers, restoration of a living, healthy environment is a pre-condition for political life to prosper, the GHRA added.

It pointed out that supporters of the ruling party are currently in no mood to entertain talk of reconciliation because the wounds of Minister Satyadeow Sawh's assassination are too raw.

Moreover, this callous murder is not seen as an isolated outrage, but a particularly savage example of a pattern of violent assaults, which they have endured for the past decade.

On the other side of the divide, the GHRA said, supporters of the opposition feel accumulated bitterness towards a system which has accommodated a large number of unresolved murders of Afro-Guyanese in recent years, intertwined in some way with a criminal economy perceived as benefiting supporters of the ruling party.

The fiendish dimension of the problem, the human rights body posited, is that the more insecure each group becomes, the less capable they appear to be of appreciating the extent to which they share the same fears and insecurity.

Capacity in this case does not appear to reflect an unwillingness or lack of disposition to recognize identity of suffering, but of how to do it as ethnic groups.

But the GHRA noted that individuals in Guyana are not naturally disposed to hate people of other races.

Indeed, it is overlooked how easily and comfortably the average Guyanese behaves around persons of other ethnic groups, compared with most societies in the world.

The most recent demonstration of this, which Guyanese are so accustomed to as not even to notice, was at the National Park last week when people of every race flew kites together in a completely relaxed and integrated way.

"However, we have spectacularly failed to translate this gift from individual to group relations," the GHRA declared.

Responsibility for this must be shared by representative institutions in Guyana, both civic and political. "Religious organizations, trade unions, even sports clubs come to mind as arbiters of our inter-actions beyond the individual level. At present there is a vacuum of community leadership," the GHRA contended.

It said that religious bodies in particular have failed to engage with the issue of reconciliation over the past decade.

Occasional photo-opportunity events are not a substitute for systematic, community-based efforts of an everyday nature to assist individuals, families and communities to exorcise their grief, rather than allow it to fester, rankle and isolate.

The GHRA said further that neither do the political parties which have traditionally represented ethnic groups appear disposed to help them grieve constructively, or even recognize the need to exorcise these feelings before a political solution can be effectively negotiated.

The release said the deaths of Ronald Waddell and Sash Sawh, for example, provoked responses focusing on the criminal dimension of the act: condemn the crime, call for swift apprehension of the killers, and swift justice.

"While such responses are inevitable and correct, politically we have nothing else to offer the groups most affected by these deaths. We only invest hope in a judicial solution to assuage indignation and insecurity."

But judicial solutions are symbolic, GHRA contended, as they do not address the causes of crime, nor exorcise inaccurate perceptions.

"Nor, as the history of the past 40 years has demonstrated, can we take refuge in platitudes such as 'time heals all wounds' or 'forgive and forget.' We remember everything, forgive nothing and time embalms grievances rather than mellows them."

Party political responses, the human rights body argued, are geared to immediate solutions to particular problems, not to addressing causes. Institutions of state in Guyana: the Judiciary, Parliament, Constitutional Commissions - problem-solving processes which ritualize problems in order to remove the heat and the indignation - are either under-utilised, ineffective, not yet constituted, or mistrusted.

It is at moments like these in the life of the nation that the ineffectiveness of such institutions is most glaring, the GHRA observed.

Unfortunately, only the limitations of the most visible of state institutions, namely, the Guyana Police Force, appears to be a matter of concern, as blame is heaped on it conveniently for all the evils the country's social and political leadership is unwilling to confront, GHRA added.

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