Juan Edghill has asked the court to commit me to prison for contempt of court. The case comes up on December 5. The writ filed by Mr. Ashton Chase alleges that I wrote about Mr. Edghill in his capacity as Chairman of the Ethnic Relations Commission (ERC) at a time when there was a legal matter before the High Court between him and Opposition Leader on the said ERC.
That case has now been concluded and Mr. Edghill called a press conference to give his views on the ERC. I am not sure now if I can comment on the contempt of court charge but let’s quote from Mr. Edghill’s affidavit. “I (Juan Edghill) am the second named defendant in proceedings which are pending before the High Court, the plaintiff thereto is Robert Corbin, Leader of the Opposition who is challenging therein the authenticity of membership of the Ethnic Relations Commission.
“Frederick Kissoon contributed and caused to be published an article in which are expressed views and opinions touching the above court proceedings and which are aimed, calculated and directed to prejudice a fair and impartial hearing” (end of quote).
Since the case has been concluded in Mr. Edghill’s favour it can then be stated factually that my article did not result in any harm to Mr. Edghill. After citing me for contempt of court (and his affidavit specifically seeks a term of imprisonment), one would have thought that Edghill would have abstained from any public attack on me. But in his press conference he accused me of being part of a conspiracy to stop the work of the ERC. It said it began with attacks from my columns on the ERC.
Both Edghill and President Jagdeo have convenient memories. It was Mr. Jagdeo who sued me for calling him a racist and it was Mr. Jagdeo who publicly labeled my lawyer in that case, Mr. Nigel Hughes, a racist. Let us quote from the work of a consultant brought in by the ERC to search for proof of ethnic bias in the award of state scholarships.
Here is what the researcher, Ms. Lyris Primo, wrote in her report; “The researcher encountered unexpected difficulties obtaining specific, detailed information from the two main organizations charged with the responsibility of awarding academic scholarships on behalf of the Government of Guyana viz the Public Service Ministry and the Office of the President. As a result the outcome of the results of the report is less than desirable.” (source: ERC Report on the Award of Scholarships in Guyana, 2007. Can also be read on the ERC website)
Mr. Jagdeo and his Government are funny people. If you are not biased in the award of public resources why then wouldn’t your government cooperate with a researcher who is conducting the investigation? These are the things I wrote about that Edghill referred to as an anti-ERC conspiracy from my columns.
At a meeting with the ERC representing the TUC, Edghill tabled the ERC annual report which stated unambiguously that there was no ethnic discrimination in the giving out of public scholarships. We had a tempestuous exchange.
For three years I met with the ERC (representing the TUC) as part of the ERC dialogues with the country’s major stakeholders. In those three years only three ERC Commissioners would turn up –Edghill, Carvil Duncan and John Willems. Only Edghill ever spoke. At each confabulation, I would question Edghill on whether the ERC was properly constituted seeing only three Commissioners turn up all the time.
These are the things I wrote about. If Edghill felt that I was part of an anti- ERC conspiracy, he can think what he wants. I stand by every single word I wrote about the ERC these past four years and would not apologize for even one word.
In 2010, the UNDP funded a consultancy headed by Mr. Lawrence Latchmansingh, the purpose of which was to ascertain the Guyanese people’s views on the ERC. Mr. Latchmansingh dialogued with more than fifty of the major stakeholders in the country, including all the main political parties. He then met with representatives of all those organizations at the Convention Centre to announce his findings.
Representing the AFC was Sheila Holder. Gail Teixeira and Donald Ramotar spoke on behalf of the PPP. Mr. Latchmansingh’s findings were devastating to the ERC. A majority of stakeholders felt that the ERC appeared biased in favour of the Government and that it should be reconstituted. The report was never made public.
These are the things about the ERC I wrote about. I stand by all I penned in my columns about the ERC.
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