by Vidyaratha Kissoon
Dear President Granger
A teacher beat a child on the Tuesday day before Diwali. The beating resulted in bruises on the child. The child cannot sit properly. There is a beautiful picture of some students sitting on the ground with you at the Diwali Utsav at State House.
The child would not have been able to sit with you because eve though you had said there is no place for corporal punishment in Guyana, nothing else has been done
The school will not do anything though because the teacher, like so many other violent teachers, is “a good“ teacher.
The parents who try to stop the beating often end up being penalised by those who think beating children is okay in a democratic society.
It as though your good intentions are being undermined. The Minister of Education recently said there will no discrimination against LGBT persons. The Minister has not done anything to stop teachers from beating children. Guyana is probably one of the countries where LGBT tolerant Government officials do nothing about the abuse of children in the school system.
The members of the Guyana Teachers Union are going to be the beneficiary of rewards from Ansa McAl. The GTU will not ask its members to stop beating children in school.
There are other children whose hands were swollen after the teachers ignored the ‘No place for corporal punishment in Guyana”. The children would not have been able to shake hands with you.
The picture of the children at State House during Diwali is a beautiful one. It looks like you are wearing a Kurta. There is an obsession with ‘Indian wear’ which seems to have been really profitable for clothes manufacturers from India (and maybe China). It is fashionable now for people to show tolerance for ethnic diversity by wearing ‘ethnic wear’.
The President in a kurta lighting diyas could be seen as a gesture of reaching out after the private racial remarks of the Press and Publicity Officer and her lack of accountability for those remarks. It could be seen as a gesture of reaching out after the allegations of racial discrimination in other parts of the Government, allegations which cannot be investigated because there is no Ethnic Relations Commission or Human Rights Commission in existence.
There is a version of Hinduism in which it is equally appropriate for anyone to wear a Made in Guyana dashiki to light diyas. It is a view about the universality of humanity, regardless of the clothing and other differences.
The night after State House extinguished the diyas, social media flared up about the swearing in of Justice Patterson as GECOM Chairman. The flaring up was not about the peaceful diya light, but in disruptive ways like the ugly bombs and squibs.
People used the Diwali festival as a metaphor to talk in divisive ways about who is the darkness to be conquered and who is bringing light.
The Ministry of Social Cohesion’s celebration included a Ram Leela group. Hinduism uses the leela, the drama, to talk about the philosophy. The whole Ramayana , was to show how Ram, in the divine imperfection (nice king and son and brother, but not a good husband), deals with the once devout Ravan who became obsessed with power. The leelas have many sub-stories, which show potentials and give examples of how Hindus should adhere to certain values especially in difficult circumstances.
Good and bad are intertwined and there are times when it seems that what is good for some is bad for others and vice versa. This ‘leela’ which is playing out here where it seems some people are pushed to think that the PPP must be kept out at all means including dubious elections. The PPP’s poor governance is now upheld as the justification for the ‘unilateral’ selection. The PPP’s poor governance was justified by the previous poor governance of the PNC. Light for PNC supporters means darkness for PPP supporters, light for PPP supporters means darkness for PNC supporters. Except when GPL gives blackout to all.
The PPP has not purged itself of the people who have faced unresolved allegations of rape and child sexual abuse. Many people who light diyas and vote for the PPP have excused the voting “ it was a list” and “some members of the list have ‘condemned’ the comrades on the list they want to govern with.
The PNC has kept Councillor Harding on at City Hall. The PNC seems to want to keep on the Town Clerk and others who took it upon themselves to interrogate a child who survived a sexual assault.The loyal man in Region 9 who has been charged with rape and has been sent on leave and receives his full salary while the case drags on in court. The political parties who will be jostling for the power under the watch of Justice Patterson have not done much about the convictions for sexual offences or the time for the cases.
2020 is looming ahead. The elections will be tense. Citizens will divide over the choice of one of the political parties who have not been able to stop teachers from assaulting children.
Diyas are temporary, lasting as long as the wick and the oil. The permanent light is supposed to be found in the rejection of divisiveness.
The leela might have gone in a different direction if you and the PPP leaders and the civil society organisations had lit diyas together before deciding on the GECOM chairperson.
The leela might still have a happy story ending though if you and the Minister of Education and the Guyana Teachers Union light diyas with the teachers and parents who want to beat children and get them to stop.
Citizen who is unable to choose the lesser of two evils , and whose diyas are often subject to the nice wind.