Feb 22, 2021 Editorial
Kaieteur News – There is a saying in this country that goes like this: mouth open, story jump out. This is exactly what happened when one of Guyana’s Ethnic Relations Commission (ERC) oversight group member, Haji Roshan Khan, decided that the time was ripe for him to go public with some laundry that not only is dingy and dirty, but nasty and smelly. We at this paper understand what the ERC member has disclosed, and we are upset – so should all Guyanese – with what he has revealed. But as we understand, we both agree and disagree with Haji Khan.
From what we learned, and as presented by Commissioner Khan, the ERC is both wasteful and dysfunctional (KN February 19). According to this Commissioner, some of the appointees to the ERC are interested in “name, position, money” which says a whole lot, while leaving us wondering on how the ERC got anything done that was constructive and for the betterment of all Guyanese. On any occasion, and regardless of the entity, that people placed in sensitive and trusted positions are focused on those three things, and those on a priority basis, only, then the crucial work at hand that needs to be urgently addressed suffers. It goes without saying that this nation needs that which calms and comforts, that which helps in on the road to healing and reconciling. But if the clearly self-serving considerations are about merely “name, position money” alone, then whatever work that is attempted will, of commonsense, of necessity, and as a result, be of the half-hearted and half-fulfilling, if even that, no matter how benevolently measured. When “name, position, money” occupy and consume, then the vital issues of racial wounds, racial hatreds, and racial pains, are all secondary and given the shortest of short thrifts. That is if Commissioner Khan is accurate with what he placed on the table and in the glare of public spotlight.
We are hard pressed as to how he can be wrong, unless he is exaggerating and himself irresponsible, with what he shared. Commissioner Khan spoke of “risk allowances” and “boots” and readiness by fellow members in the ERC to award themselves a six-figure Christmas bonus on an individual basis. Though that extravagant figure was in clear conflict with the government’s known ceiling of $25,000 per person for all statutory bodies, that did not deter the interested and driven ERC members to vote a holiday bonus of $150,000 for themselves. To be clear, that is not $150,000 for the entire group, but $150,000 each. That can never be condoned but condemned in the harshest and loudest manner.
For, if Commissioner Khan is on the money with that and has it completely right, then it is an abomination that we denounce unreservedly. We can overlook, though it takes a lot out of us, the push for risk allowances and boots, but that greedy Christmas bonus award flies in the face of what is considerate and conscientious at the individual level, and that is for any organization, any place of oversight responsibility.
On a sharper and more alarming note, Commissioner Khan pointed to the “political masterminds in place” at the ERC, who were contributing to the turmoil and deterioration in the 19-month period from the no confidence motion to the election all the way to the long-delayed declaration. If that was who and what were actually in place at the ERC, then we did not have anything that was helpful, worthwhile. Nothing that serves to stand as a calming influence, a restraining bulwark, a credible safe harbour, in our feeble struggles against the racial malice and antagonisms that are so much a part of this society, at its political and electoral cores. We would hope, though it looks forlorn, that things are not as terrible at the ERC; that it did not go rogue on this nation when it was needed the most.
We disagree with Commissioner Khan with his opinion that “the ERC has been a total letdown to the Guyanese nation.” We believe that the ERC, even in its alleged dysfunctional state, has done some good, that its very presence has made ultra-reckless Guyanese on both sides of the divide pause, think twice, and retreat. Let down in some areas, yes; total let down, we cannot agree with, because the specks of civility that this statutory agency brought about must be recognized. Our position is that the ERC, in just being there, served as the deterrent to some very limited degree to prevent the “total catastrophe” that Commissioner Khan articulated as his belief.
Obviously, the ERC has to do some soul-searching at its highest levels. Perhaps, it needs to be revamped with a different kind of Guyanese, whose paramount interest and involvement are how to work tirelessly to be true servants, how to defuse us, and how to bring us to a place of stable racial relations.
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