Please allow me to reply to the response of the Chairman, Rev. Dr. General Bishop Oswald Smith, to my article: “Atrocities in the Ethnic Relations Commission,” as published in the media on Sunday, February 14th, 2021.
I must point out that one cannot attempt to “put the record straight” with a response that is baseless and one which tries to whitewash the realities within the ERC as these relate to the wasting of taxpayers’ money and the many other incompetencies of the general management of the ERC.
At this juncture, I wish to make it pellucid that I have nothing personal against the Chairman; and, furthermore, I am not on a mission to decimate him or his character. However, as a tax-paying citizen of this country, I must speak with respect and honour for what is right for the nation of Guyana and the Guyanese people.
Mr. Editor, quite similar to the Quranic quote I used in my previous letter, the Holy Bible states, “Maintain justice and do what is right….” Isaiah 56:1. That being said, I, Commissioner Hajji Dr. Roshan Khan, firmly stand behind the words I said in my prior letter and subsequent commentaries I made in the Kaieteur News.
As one within the ERC to witness the inconsistencies, the lack of fair play for facilities and privileges, favouritism, cowardice, attempts to decimate a significant section of our country’s population, and some who are empowered by the Leader of the Opposition and Former President, David Granger; the fact that the ERC, through its chairman, refused to condemn the realities of what existed but would rather issue petty press releases – in which they have become specialists – called for much awareness.
I must add that these “press releases” were always pushed for, and when issued, were too late. Further, for emphasis, I wish to reiterate that the Chairman cancelled the trip that was organised by the Deputy Chairman Mr. Norman McLean for the Commissioner of Police and the Brigadier, along with their teams, to escort us in the disrupted areas in Region 5. This was cancelled arbitrarily, without notice, even to the surprise of the Vice Chair. To me, this shows a conflict of interest and possible political instruction from his handlers.
While I do not wish to have a public debate with the Chairman of the ERC, I cannot comprehend that a man of his calibre — a servant of the Highest God — would lie to the world, to the country, to the Speaker of Parliament, to the President of Guyana, etc., that the amount of $150,000 for the Commissioners and $100,000 for the staff was allocated for COVID-19 relief. In actuality, the sums of $100,000 and $150,000 were, in fact, a Christmas bonus and not a COVID-19 gift!
The votes for this exorbitant amount were strictly for holiday bonuses, and not as COVID-19 relief! COVID-19 packages and alternate work days, as well as “work from home” were already established for Commissioners and staff of the ERC. As such, the Chairman’s utterances in his response is essentially an outright excuse to escape the fact that money from the ERC is being wasted, and without justification and just cause.
To me, taxpayers’ dollars are sacrosanct, and are a special gift from the Government of Guyana to the ERC, and hence must be spent wisely at all times. So much so that I am against the costly retreat in New Amsterdam in the midst of the prevailing COVID-19 pandemic, which is currently in play and for which I reiterate I voted against. I publicly stated that this is a waste of taxpayers’ money, which could have been spent otherwise in the cause of harmony and peace for the Guyanese people.
I find myself constantly asking what the intention of this lavish expenditure is about, since we have now reached the legal end of our term. It is indeed unfortunate and tragic that certain persons seem to be bent on finishing the money we may have in hand before their departure from the ERC.
Mr. Editor, I concur that we have done several noteworthy things. However, in my opinion, much of it was just a “joy ride” and “tourist ride” around Guyana. I say this because very little has been done in these programmes for which there has been little to no follow-up. We have done nothing in these areas where we visited, other than giving them lunch.
I remember that when a Commissioner whose name I do not wish to mention at this time wanted funding for an event for her constituent. Our mandate is not supposed to be for a constituent, but we are supposed to be nationalistic. Nonetheless, the money was made available and quickly voted for in her favour. However, when youth Commissioner Pandit Deodat Persaud wanted funding for a Youth Harmony project aimed at getting young people from all of our ethnic groups together, he was immediately shut down by the Chairman. He was shut down as he raised it again, and again, and again.
This is the crux of the situation of a dilemma in which I literally cannot stand. Pandit Deodat Persaud also proposed that we have mini-offices in all regions of Guyana. It was again easily shut down by the Chairman and his support group, comprising of a few commissioners who do not seem to understand these things. I agreed with the idea of Pandit Deodat Persaud, and then suggested how it could be achieved. I suggested that in each of the 10 regions, we ask for a desk for an ERC staff with a special appointee, one trained by the ERC and paid around the same amount of money paid by the regional offices.
That person could be trained on how to take complaints and direct them to the main ERC office. These ideas were repeatedly shut down.
Eventually, when we went all over the country, those were the exact sentiments expressed by the people, who suggested that we set up mini-offices where we could listen to the people, particularly those in areas with no technology or the know-how of how to contact the ERC, and then transmit the message to the ERC’s headquarters in Georgetown.
Mr. Editor, I do not wish to prolong this. I reiterate, I have nothing personal against the Chairman. I liked him very much and supported him publicly, even when one of his former flocks from his church had publicly decimated his character.
Finally, I completely agree with the Chairman: when selecting individuals as Commissioners, the public should not place wolves in sheep’s clothing. They should not be able to occupy roles and be appointed to senior positions so as to be politically and/or ethnically controlled by their handlers and those who want them in those positions, as we have seen in the part leadership of the ERC as it is today.
As the Commissioner appointed by the Islamic community, I must speak the truth, and so, Mr. Editor, I repeat for emphasis, and end with one of the philosophies I live by: “O believers! Stand firm for justice as witnesses for Allah even if it is against yourselves, your parents, or close relatives. Be they rich or poor, Allah is best to ensure their interests. So do not let your desires cause you to deviate from justice. If you distort the testimony or refuse to give it, then know that? Allah is certainly All-Aware of what you do.” (Quran 4:135)
Commissioner Hajji Dr