The attention of the Ministry of Finance has been drawn to a number of statements made by Nigel Hinds recently on the subject of racism. The most recent of these are an assertion published online that racism in Guyana is getting worse, and a rambling letter published in today’s newspapers. As usual with his missives, both are high on rhetoric and devoid of fact. In response, I now wish to offer the following comments.
Judging from the public pronouncements Nigel Hinds has been making recently on the subject of racism, as well as from interactions I have had with him privately, a major source of his dissatisfaction is a longstanding dispute he has with the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Guyana (ICAG). The ICAG is a body established by law to regulate the practice and profession of accountancy, in much the same manner as the Medical Council of Guyana regulates the medical profession.
In relation to the dispute, he has with the ICAG, without any intention on my part to disclose the details of the dispute, Hinds approached His Excellency the President some months ago and asked for the Government to intervene in this dispute. His Excellency forwarded the matter to me. I communicated with Hinds and explained to him that the ICAG is a regulatory body tasked with responsibility and vested with authority to regulate the accounting profession, and that there is no basis for Government intervention in the dispute.
Nevertheless, based on his representation that he needed additional time to resolve the matter, I offered to make such a representation on his behalf to the ICAG. I took the exceptional step of contacting the ICAG myself and enquired about the matter. In light of the explanation, I received (including on the amount of time that had already been granted to Hinds to resolve the matter) and having considered his request for additional time, I suggested to the ICAG that consideration be given to granting Hinds an extension of time to resolve the matter. An extension was granted, as a direct result of which Hinds continues to be licensed by the ICAG to practice as an accountant. I communicated this to Hinds. At the time, I understood him to be satisfied with the result achieved as a direct result of a Government appeal on his behalf and entirely at his request.
For added emphasis, it is worthwhile to repeat that Hinds is currently the beneficiary of a direct and exceptional appeal by this People’s Progressive Party/Civic Government in order to ensure that he continues to enjoy the right to practice his profession, while he has been granted extra time to bring himself in order with the ICAG.
Alas, his initial satisfaction with this outcome appears to have morphed swiftly into dissatisfaction.
I certainly hold no brief for the ICAG, and I believe that body is capable of defending itself against the vulgar racist assault launched on it recently by Hinds. The Government’s position is unequivocal. Until such time that the legal framework for regulating the accounting profession is changed, the ICAG is the body authorised to license accountants in public practice and all accountants in public practice have to comply with the rules set out by that body for that purpose.
The fact of the matter is that Hinds wants to be exempt from requirements that apply to all other practicing accountants across Guyana. I am advised that those requirements resemble those applied by the bodies that regulate the accounting profession across the Caribbean and in many parts of the world. As I have already done privately, I would urge Hinds once again to engage the ICAG meaningfully with a view to resolving the matter between him and them.
It is most regrettable and completely disingenuous that Hinds would take a bilateral dispute he has with the ICAG as the basis on which to weave a patently false and blatantly dishonest narrative about racism in Guyana.
The unavoidable conclusion is that his newfound posture as a champion of ethnic rights is firmly grounded in pure self-interest and the advancement of his own narrow cause, instead of that of the masses whose emotions he is trying to excite for his own personal benefit.
Put differently, it is my considered opinion that Hinds is now opportunistically using the bully pulpit of racism to try to intimidate the ICAG to extend special treatment to him and to enable him to bypass standard requirements that are applicable to all persons practising the same profession as he does.
It should be added that there might be another cause for the dissatisfaction currently being displayed by Hinds. Recently, the Government invited Hinds to be a member of the VAT Board of Review, considering that this might be an opportunity for him to contribute to the work of an important tribunal. Hinds declined the offer, indicating that he is not prepared to accept appointment to any Board or entity unless he is being appointed to chair that Board or entity. It is, of course, a matter of public record that Ronald Burch-Smith was appointed to chair the VAT Board of Review (and Sharon Roopchand-Edwards to chair the Customs Tariff Tribunal and Emily Dodson to chair the Income Tax Board of Review).
The posture adopted by Hinds in the latter matter speaks entirely for itself. Here again, instead of acknowledging the diversity (not only ethnically, but also in terms of professional backgrounds and skills) of the appointments made to these important tax tribunals, the position adopted by Hinds is an entirely self-serving one. It would appear that, in his mind, diversity is only served when he is the designated appointee to whichever post he covets or when he is the recipient of whichever reward or recognition he craves.
This again reinforces the purely opportunistic nature of his recently adopted ethnic advocacy. It bears striking resemblance to the posture also adopted by a few others recently, who invoke the racism bogeyman without any basis whatsoever, for the sole purpose of political opportunism, and knowing full well that they themselves failed blatantly to serve in any meaningful way the very people whose cause they now claim to champion.
The Ministry of Finance takes the opportunity to reject outright the unsubstantiated and baseless racist rhetoric being peddled by Nigel Hinds and to reaffirm the Government’s strong commitment to govern in the interest of all Guyanese, in keeping with President Ali’s One Guyana vision.