The traditions of East Indian ancestors have transcended time and today, some of their practices are used to keep communities together, says Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar.
In delivering Indian Arrival Day greetings to Parliament yesterday, Persad-Bissessar recalled the stories of one of the traditions brought to this country—the panchayaat.
She said in this system, five elders of the community were given responsibility for resolving conflicts, making judgments and even administering penance and punishment.
“The panchayaat system held families and communities together to ensure that a hard-won and jealously protected system of moral values and ethics was never compromised,” said Persad-Bissessar.
She said the panchayaat system was supported by a strong moral force and was administered with a solemn purpose of giving the younger ones the moral compass to live good lives, and passing on their wisdom to others in their community.
“In some communities today, while
known by a host of different interventions and driven by varied interest
and community groups, this is the kind of approach that is actually reaching young people who may have strayed off the right path,” she said.
Persad-Bissessar said this is how, through programmes like the National Mentorship Programme, her Government was encouraging young people to turn away from deviance and anti-social behaviour and embrace their citizenship, their families, their friends and a future that holds a place especially for them.
“Now, Mr Speaker, let me make clear that I am not suggesting that the National Mentorship Programme was built along the lines of the panchayaat system,” she said.
“And I make that clear because I know how many are prone and keen
on taking anything that can be misrepresented to the nation,” she added.
“What I am in fact saying is that many of the challenges we face today as a modern society can find solutions in the wisdom of our elders and ancestors, by traditions passed down through centuries,” said Persad-Bissessar.
She said the people must always take heed of the wisdom that elders passed on to us and use that wisdom to inform our daily lives and truly secure the moral compass we will in turn pass on to future generations.