Friday, February 23, 2018

Of reflections and reality


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THERE IS something quite special about Christmas that motivates people of all walks of life, and irrespective of ethnicity, religion and politics, to engage in friendly gestures consistent with what is celebrated as the season of ''peace and goodwill''.

It is a time when politicians and parties virtually compete to offer the best of wishes and say the nicest things to enliven moods and raise hopes for an improved political culture.

I was reminded of this just yesterday by the messages of government and opposition leaders, some cabinet ministers, entrepreneurs and civil society officials, as reported in sections of the regional media.

Take, for example, the 'greetings" extended by leaders of the three main parliamentary parties, the Prime Minister and President of this nation as reported in the Express.

It was all so comforting, so reassuring, perhaps inspiring even the 'doubting Thomas' to hope for a better environment of political maturity without customary divisive rhetoric that poison relations and further weaken the social fabric of so-called plural or dual societies like Trinidad and Tobago and Guyana

A sample of the sentiments expressed by the chairman of the United National Congress, Jack Warner, and the leaders of the Congress of the People, Prakash Ramadhar, and the People's National Movement, Keith Rowley, contrast sharply with utterances during the year, and particularly within recent months. Nevertheless, they would be most welcome by all who desire the peace and goodwill so essential for national unity and economic progress.

"It is my sincere wish", said Dr Rowley, "that we allow the gift of honesty to prevail over lies and deception….; that we practise forgiveness instead of vindictiveness…; that the principles of love, justice and equal rights reside strongly within each and every one of us as individuals and over our nation…"

For the UNC's Warner, Minister of National Security, his message stressed that the celebration of the birth, life and legacy of Jesus Christ "is a reminder of the potential of every child and that the circumstances of a person's environment should not be a limit to what they should aspire to be or what should be expected of them…

"As a national community," he feels, "we must think about those who are in need of help, in whatever form, and try to make a positive difference in their lives…"

The COP's Ramadhar chose to emphasise that "while we enjoy the festive season, let us remind ourselves of the deeper meaning of Christmas, lest consumerism consumes us…"

How quite different, these messages, sentiments are, to what were otherwise recorded by the media earlier as emanating from these very leaders and some of their colleagues as they engage, too often, in vitriolic outbursts to score political points and seemingly unmindful of the damage and personal hurt caused.

Yet, it is better to embrace the positive sentiments they have expressed in extending Christmas greetings than to recall the bitterness, the meanness, the unnecessary narrow, divisive outbursts recorded, particularly against Minister Warner and the PNM's Rowley.

When the bell is rung for coming local government elections will the barbs of race talk, slander of 'bobol politics' and general misrepresentations of the truth resurface and be rationalised as aspects of the nature of "competitive politics"?

Or will some new initiatives be pursued, however challenging, to encourage healthy debates and discussions that could inspire the youth in particular to better appreciate the national motto: "

Together We Aspire,

Together We Achieve"?

And what about the importance of structured dialogues between Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar and Opposition Leader Rowley. I cannot recall the two ever having an arranged official meeting to discuss any matter of national importance, although this is expected to be a normal feature of multi-party parliamentary democracy.

In Jamaica and Guyana, also known for rough and crude verbal entanglements by government and opposition spokespersons, the leaders have their occasional consultations.

This should be encouraged as the norm in EVERY member state of our Caribbean Community that is truly committed to functional parliamentary democracy and not be restricted to expedient initiatives of choice.

Good wishes for the 'season of goodwill' to all readers