The issues pertaining to Dr Vishwamintra Persaud are already sufficiently complex and difficult. As we navigate to find resolution it is incumbent on us to stay close to the facts and seek to keep the discourse intelligent and civilised.
Unfortunately any attempt to maintain objectivity and to call for a balanced debate is fraught with danger in this season of intolerance and pronouncements of “zero tolerance”: self righteous screaming and finger pointing seems to have the ascendancy over balanced examination and action.
In deliberating on crimes, punishment and reform, the great advance of modern societies has been to recognise and insist on the need to recognize the perpetrator as also a human being and not to lose sight of his/her humanity.
Failure to recognise the humanity of the perpetrator renders him/her as less than human and consequently no punishment is too severe. In this regard, beheading the beast or burning it at the stake would be alright.
According to New York Department of Health documents, on April 18, 2008 Dr Persaud was found guilty of “attempted course of sexual conduct against a child in the second degree.”
On June 11, the same year, he was ordered to an eight-year order of protection, ten years probation, fined US$2,500 and various fees and surcharges. It should be noted that for this conviction, the schedule of penalties that the judge had at his discretion included imprisonment and much higher fines.
The Office of Professional Medical Conduct then conducted a hearing and revoked Dr Persaud’s license to practice with an opportunity to reapply for his license after three years. There is no evidence that Dr. Persaud has breached the order of protection or probation.
In explaining the decision to offer employment at GPHC, I pointed out that Dr. Persaud was not a serial offender and that he was never to the best of our knowledge investigated or convicted for any similar crime or any crime for that matter, perpetrated in his work place or on his patients. This was taken out of context and represented as if I was suggesting that one child was okay.
One of any crime is not okay. Harming one child is not okay and I maintain this. But in determining punishment: size and numbers do influence penalties. The New York Court took this into consideration and did not induce prison time for Dr. Persaud.
Several interest groups have represented that according to the applicable laws of Guyana, a doctor coming with such a conviction as Dr. Persaud cannot be employed in this country. I note that the Honourable Minister Priya Manickchand was “horrified” by the fact that Dr. Persaud was employed at GPHC and her take, based on media reports that I suggested that one child is okay. I would be interested in knowing what the Minister did since 12th November 2010, when this matter became public and horrified as she was, to ensure application of the relevant laws.
Based on the positions of the various interest groups including the Guyana Times with its special lock on an absolute morality, there seems to be no place for Dr. Persaud in Guyana. There seems to be an all or none disposition in our statutes.
I may have erred in the exercise of my judgment in recommending employment of Dr. V. Persaud, having assured myself that he was registered by the Medical Council of Guyana and remain willing to be guided and directed by the relevant authorities.
However, I would have been horrified with myself had I stood behind an “I did not know” in a vain attempt to absolve myself of responsibility when I believe it was my official responsibility to make it my business to know and I believe it’s the responsibility of officials and statutory agencies to make it their business to “know”.
The courts sentence and various authorities make the rules. We offered employment to someone who we believe to be eligible. If we were wrong, then these authorities must tell us so.
There apparently are several news reports stating that I am related to Dr. Persaud. I wish to categorically state that I hold no brief for Dr. Vishwamintra Persaud nor am I related to him in any way whatsoever. My acquaintance with Dr. Persaud is purely in my official and professional capacity at Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation.
I believe news reporters should hold themselves to as high standards as they usually demand of others. Hiding behind “alleged” and making no effort to corroborate and confirm cannot be a sufficient standard for news reporters.
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