Home Letters Atrocities at Ethnic Relations Commission (Pt 1)
In light of the recent article, “Commissioners disassociate themselves from ERC letter,” published in the February 10th, 2021 edition in the various print media, I wish to further highlight some disturbing issues within the Ethnic Relations Commission that can lead to serious catastrophe, all of which contradicts with its mission and purpose to serve and unite the Guyanese people.
Do not get me wrong; I, the undersigned, truly believe in the wisdom and philosophy that created the ERC.
However, in recent times, I cannot help but express my utter displeasure with what the ERC has become. In my view, since the “no-confidence” motion and leading up to the March 2020 elections, along with the political master-minders in place, the principles and philosophies that the ERC should uphold have rapidly deteriorated. It is known that some within the ERC were and are clandestinely working with political operatives from the Opposition to control the Commission. Because of this, the ERC has lost its way and has not managed to find a way back to its original mandated purposes.
In its current state, I am of the opinion, like most Guyanese, that the ERC has been a total letdown to the Guyanese nation, and is not deserving of the funds it receives. In my opinion, the commissioners have accomplished very little. I believe what was done was insignificant and extremely limited to what could have been achieved. I was even amazed when the Chairman sought to push the “National Conversation” coming to the end of our term to make it look as though the ERC is doing something. However, much like the so-called “diagnostic team,” it is too little too late. While the “National Conversation” was a great initiative, the recognition must be given to none other than Commissioner Neaz Subhan for being the brain behind it; he, along with bits of input from others.
At this juncture in the current state of the ERC, I am of strong belief that we should resign ‘en bloc’ and let the Government, via Parliament, put in place a proper patriotic Commission. I say this because I initially had high hopes and immense feelings of motivation to serve, but on a closer look, I saw egotistic, religious and ethnic prejudices, and manipulations by some appointees who are only interested in name, position, money, and who put their faith in areas where they are not concerned, all for just allowances. Some commissioners, even though they are more than well compensated and earn exceptionally high remuneration in about any and every conceivable thing imaginable, are still not satisfied. Some also wanted a risk allowance to fly on a plane. They wanted risk allowance to go in the jungle. They wanted high-quality boots, which I declined, as the boots were provided at the virtual end of our term.
As with the Christmas bonuses, some commissioners decided to grant themselves $200,000. However, they received $150,000 even though the Government had advised that all statutory bodies should receive $25,000 as a Christmas bonus. Further, all of the ERC staff were given one $100,000 each. I, Commissioner Hajji Dr. Roshan Khan, declined to accept this abuse of taxpayers’ dollars. This to me is utterly wrong and a waste of money of tax payers. On several occasions, I expressed my displeasure to them in writing. Because of these malpractices and others too numerous to mention within the ERC, my heart broke. Do not get me wrong, I still believe in the philosophy of the ERC, albeit under proper administration.
I would also like to respectfully add that, in the future, commissioners should not be sworn in and left to drown in the ocean, but should attend three days of preparatory training as an induction training. I even suggested this to the diagnostic team.
Recently, we have also seen His Excellency President Dr. Irfaan Ali pronouncing his displeasure with the ERC for being in “hiding” following the March, 2020 elections. I concur with His Excellency the President, and I think we, as the ERC, led by the Chairman, General Bishop Reverend Doctor John Oswald Smith, needs to apologise to the nation for pussyfooting during and after the recount of the March, 2020 elections.
Also, the ERC needs to apologise for not being brave enough to condemn the murders, rapes, “feel-up” of Indian women, and the beatings, lootings, chopping, burning of persons, homes, businesses, and vehicles; theft of paddy and personal items. People were also being blocked from travelling on the West Coast Berbice to and from Georgetown by a particular political group of Guyanese.
The ERC had the opportunity to prove its relevance in Guyana for the large amounts of money that were given for the sake of goodwill, harmony, and peace. It would have been a great credit to the ERC to step out and meet the people in the heat of these moments, as it would have solidified its relevance in Guyana. However, despite being an ERC Commissioner myself, it was a great disappointment to note that the Chairman, of what was supposed to be a powerful constitutional body, was as quiet as a door mouse, and in my view, functioned as an ornamental appointee of the nation. Rather than taking the lead to stand for what is right: for unity, democracy, and peace, he went, as the President rightfully put it, into “hiding” and hauled much of what seemed to be some opportunistic and cowardly commissioners in the corner doing nothing. I wish to take the opportunity to give credit to retired Brigadier and Chief of Staff, Mr. Norman McLean, a true human resource specialist, for having arranged a special convoy of police and military, accompanied by the Commissioner of Police and the Chief of Staff of the Guyana Defence Force. What broke the heart of many of us as Commissioners was the fact that the Chairman decided against it, without a meeting or even a round robin of Commissioners for their opinions. Instead, he cancelled the trip, much to the amazement of the decent Commissioners.