IN this column last week, we took pleasure in wishing everybody a Merry Christmas and emphasised the importance of peace and goodwill in the festive season as families and friends gathered together to celebrate.
We urged our fellow Bahamians to give thanks for our many blessings. But we also took the opportunity to draw attention to the poverty and social deprivation that is all too prevalent in our country. We expressed, too, the disappointment of so many that on a broader front our current political leaders have not been living up to the expectations of those who voted them into office.
Nonetheless, as a tumultuous 2018 is nearly over, we encourage our fellow citizens today to recognise the many advantages we enjoy in our small island state and to remain grateful for the benefits of living in an ordered and generally peaceful environment. This should surely help us to look forward to the coming year with hope, faith and confidence and to remember our duty to be kind, caring and generous towards others – in particular, the needy and less privileged in our society.
We were struck by the inspiring tone and content of this year’s Christmas Day speech by The Queen, our Head of State, and the sound and uplifting advice offered. While recognising human beings have a huge propensity for good but can fall victim to the divisiveness of tribalism, she spoke of the need for civility both in public discourse and at the individual level. She stressed the importance of treating one another with respect and common decency as an essential first step towards greater mutual understanding.
Many contend that, if such wise advice could be applied to the conduct of international relations, the world would be a better and less dangerous place. Instead, it seems to be increasingly chaotic and out of control and on the edge of disaster with a permanent fear of nuclear destruction at the flick of a finger on a button.
This has been made worse by the uncertainty surrounding an unpredictable and impulsive US president with no political experience who appears to be reluctant to listen to advice despite being faced by numerous international crises – for example, the Middle East (including Syria, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Iran and Iraq), a trade war with China, Afghanistan, North Korea, Ukraine and Russian expansionism, the Sahel, the Congo, and a humanitarian emergency in Venezuela.
In such dangerous times, the allies of the US as the leader of the Free World rely on it to formulate a considered and sound foreign and defence policy so that its overwhelming military and other powers are used in the defence and furtherance of Western interests.
Small countries like our own, without a seat at the top table, can have little influence on global events. But it is incumbent on us - through, for example, membership of United Nations bodies and of CARICOM or as the world’s fifth largest shipping registry – to play our own role in other more limited spheres. A current instance is Japan’s announcement this week of its withdrawal from the International Whaling Commission and its intention to continue commercial whaling. This should be of concern to The Bahamas given our interest as a maritime nation in co-operating with the international community in conservation and other issues affecting marine life.
Despite this, we believe in the coming year there should be more emphasis on matters here at home. Many consider that with a huge parliamentary majority the Prime Minister and his colleagues have become arrogant and should be willing to listen more readily to constructive criticism and consult the people as required in a democracy. A telling recent example of the government’s failure to do this was the rushed Non-Profits legislation which was poorly handled.
This advice is based partly on what we are hearing from a variety of sources; but we fear it may not be heeded as government ministers become seduced by the power of high political office which can turn out, all too often, to be short lived if they fail to deliver what the people want.
In 2019, let us all resist tribalism and, while showing respect in our dealings with one another, seek to avoid the marginalisation or exclusion of individuals and groups.
If Bahamians can only pull together in a spirit of goodwill, unity and co-operation – and build upon our many blessings and advantages – our nation can surely prosper in the coming year.
We wish all our readers a Happy New Year.