The debate on two contentious issues
There is no doubt that the issues of corporal punishment and capital punishment are the most contentious in Guyana. People insist that those who kill and cause pain to other families should be removed from the society. There is no compassion in their heart. Further, there is often a deep desire to see the perpetrator suffer as much as the victims. Such is human nature.
Similarly, the issue of corporal punishment evokes strong views. Being a society that absorbs just about everything that happens in the wider world, there are people in Guyana who have come to accept the views of the so-called liberals.
In the United States, whenever there is an execution, there are groups that gather outside the prison and hold vigils denouncing the execution. The members of the groups would proclaim that the execution is executive murder and that it is inhumane and degrading to the person being executed.
Although there has not been an execution in Guyana for more than fifteen years, people in increasing numbers would contend that the death penalty is barbaric. Some of these, if asked about the method in which the execution is conducted, are in no position to offer an opinion. They are also the people, who when visited by a violent situation, forget the views that they seek to propagate.
The Europeans tend to be more liberal than the Americans when it comes to the death penalty. They prefer to keep the perpetrator in prison for a very long time. The opponents of the death penalty in Guyana hold a similar position. But they change after a while. They then claim that the person who spends a long time in prison is punished unduly because the prison is not what should operate for the detained person.
The opponents point to overcrowding, poor diet and other conditions that are not to the benefit of an individual. And these are valid objections. The conditions are tantamount to a second round of punishment for the incarcerated person.
But then one recognizes that Guyana can only operate a prison under conditions that it can sustain. A poor country cannot offer the kind of conditions that the critics of the death penalty see in the developed country. So we have the situation where people want to see emulated what they see in the developed world without accepting that this is not going to happen at this time.
The situation is therefore a veritable Catch 22. If you do not execute a person then, taken to the logical conclusion, that person should be released. And if the society does not want the release then there must be an execution to prevent life in horrible conditions.
Corporal punishment attracts equally diverse views. Again, taking their cue from the developed world the Guyanese conclude that such a form of punishment makes a child violent. They do not take into consideration that no singular factor can fashion a particular behaviour.
There is no scientific evidence to suggest that the decline in the incidence of corporal punishment is responsible for the increase in criminal activities in the society. Correspondingly, there is no evidence that the reduction in corporal punishment is responsible for the drop in education standards and morals. Indeed these things seem to have happened simultaneously but no one can attribute one to the other.
Those who have assimilated aspects of the culture in the developed world where there is the view that corporal punishment is barbaric would scream for its abolition from the roof tops.
However, Guyana, although signing the protocol, has not abolished corporal punishment from its statutes. The irony is, though, that the courts tend to penalize people for administering corporal punishment to the children although there is nothing in the law to prevent the parents.
So the Education Ministry is meeting on the issue in the schools. In the school the head can administer corporal punishment or assign such a task to a senior teacher. But this is rarely done because many teachers are reluctant to apply the whip for fear of parental retaliation.