Religious communities should come together to train hunters and corruption registers
Over the next 25 years as an oil producing country, most of us do not want Guyana to become a country where corrupt politicians and officials provide unfair benefits to their families (nepotism), friends and business associates (cronyism) at the economic expense of the vast majority of the population who are farmers, workers, the unemployed, the under-employed, the repossessed, the marginalized, the poor and the hungry. The result would be a nation where rich people become richer and poor people get poorer.
At its core, corruption is about greedy and dishonest persons who come from all political parties, ethnicities, class and gender. In addition to the grand corruption by some politicians, officials and business people, there is also petty corruption by some ordinary people and small businesses who, for example, pay bribes to avoid traffic fines, or receive favorable treatment for public service, or they sell outdated and substandard goods and services.
So, as our National Poet Martin Carter advised: “We all get involved. We are all spoiled ”.
Most Guyanese are good people, including in government and political opposition. Unfortunately, due to political allegiance, ethnicity and fear of personal risk, most of us watch and do nothing about corrupt behavior.
While it is absolutely necessary to strengthen laws, improve public services, increase income and make gender equality a reality, a legal and material approach is not sufficient. There must also be a spiritual approach.
Religions provide a moral compass to nurture the values, principles, ethics, attitudes and skills for strengthening character so that we humans can end the culture of silence and prevent corrupt politicians and officials who, with kindness, breaking laws and escaping fines, penalties and dismissal.
Corruption is clearly condemned in religious texts.
The Christian Bible says: “A bribe corrupts the heart.”; “The wicked receive a bribe in secret to pervert the way of justice.”; “Back up the right way, they have gone astray. They loved winning from wrongdoing. ”
The Hindu Bhagavad-Gita states: “Thieves are the recipients of bribes.”; “People who praise and justify bribes are also corrupt.”; “A dishonest person is not reliable, genuine or consistent and lacks integrity.” All Hindus are expected to practice aparigraha (not to accept bribes) and asteya (not to steal).
The Islamic Qur’an states: “Damned is the bribe giver (or ‘corrupter’), the bribe (or ‘corrupt’) and the passer-by.”; “And Allah does not like corruption.”
The Baha’i Kitab-i-Aqdas say that a person who “exacts money illegally from the people, even a single penny, to secure private gain, will be deprived of the blessings of the Almighty.”
All religions should come together and train hunters and corruption registers to speak out with “strong minds and hearts” against all corrupt practices and poor wealth.
Anti-corruption activities must become acceptable and a normal way of doing things. Whistleblowing (transfer of information about wrongdoing) by public and private sector employees must be protected by law.
Anti-corruption activities should be organized together on the ground across churches, temples and masjids such as prayer days, seminars, debates, participation in government / civil society consultations and committees, media interviews, peaceful protests and producing brochures, posters and videos.
Truckers must realize that many people ‘see through’ them. Religious texts warn that “Nothing is covered or uncovered; and he hid nothing, that will not be known ”because God always knows and watches pollutants.
Our wise Guyanese Elders warned misdemeanors that “moon ah runs until ketch am daylight” which means that one may think he is fleeing wrongdoing but one day he will be caught; and “a bush having ears and a dutty having a tongue” which means that one may think that no one sees or hears what he is doing, yet their secrets are known.
Religious texts teach us that one of the most effective ways to prevent and reduce corrupt behavior is to reduce corruption by staring at them (the ‘cold shoulder’) and shutting them out of friendship and conversations until they acknowledge their guilt, seeking repentance and changing their ways because we do not want their evil company to ruin our good manners.
When pollutants are found guilty, they must face the consequences, regardless of their political affiliation, ethnicity or gender.
At the same time, religious texts also teach us to avoid being self-righteous, arrogant or partisan because all those accused of corruption are innocent until proven guilty.
We have to follow the Golden Rule of Religions: “Do to others what they would have done for you” because although we think we stand firm, we may also tempted to deviate from our good character.
Sometimes even some people who are advanced in spiritual understanding and intellectual ability fall prey to temptations. Money and a corrupt system can turn honest people toward shady deals.
Our focus must be on eliminating wrong behavior and not on the individuals. Therefore, after the guilty ‘pay the price’ and repent, we must gently forgive and restore them, and protect their families from disrespect, shame and fear.
Hopefully the repentant abusers become the strongest hunters and registers of corruption.
The next letter will explore the vital role that the Guyanese diaspora must play in combating corruption.
The immediate priority for Guyanese, both at home and in the diaspora, is to prevent corruption in the campaign against the COVID-19 pandemic. Guyana receives grants and loans in the billions of dollars of Guyana. Corruption would stifle and weaken Guyana’s response to the pandemic.
Every Guyanese needs to know how every dollar is used. The international donor and lender agencies must publish what they fund. The Ministry of Health must announce how they are spending the money.
Sincerely, Geoffrey Da Silva