Feb 28, 2021 Editorial
Kaieteur News – We are a touch embarrassed at what occurred at Guyana’s sensitive Ethnic Relations Commission (ERC). We are even more embarrassed by what the Chairman of the ERC, a noble man of the cloth and that special calling to let your “yes be yes, and your nay be nay,” who utilized the media channel to set the record straight on what was or was not received for a Christmas Bonus. As we sift through what the ERC chairman resented, our conclusion is that it would have been better if he had stayed quiet and let the matter die under its own weight; he did not travel along the straightest and narrowest path.
This is our position because what the chairman did, in his response to the scorching revelations of another board member, was play games with the English Language. To be clear, the chair did not utter a rank falsehood. To his credit, he did own up to what took place in the deliberations and conclusions of the ERC board on the matter of rewarding its members with a cash grant. But what was startling was the banner under which he tried to shelter and use as justification for the money that was voted on by the board under his leadership in favour of themselves. The ERC chair failed and most embarrassingly. Like we said earlier, he should have stayed silent and remained in the shadows, in the hope that the unfavourable winds would blow over.
First, the ERC chair pointed out that it was not an amount of $200,000 per board member, as was stated by another member of the commission, but the way less figure of $150,000. We ask pardon of the chairman and the Guyanese public for thinking that that is a distinction without much of a difference, other than for that small number that the original amount was reduced by. We may have been more understanding, and more receptive, to a final amount awarded of $50,000 at a maximum. That would have represented a 75 percent reduction in that $200,000 starting figure, and conveyed to all citizens that as they struggle, the ERC is struggling, too, and aligned with them in the shared sacrifices that the COVID-19 pandemic has called upon all Guyanese – indeed, almost all of the world – to deal with and try to get by with what is at hand. Having said that, it is our belief that a mere 25 percent reduction of the $200,000 bonus proposal is both insulting and self-serving. It does not send the right message to suffering Guyanese, especially the numerous ones that are not in a position to deal with the financial demands of the pandemic.
If the ERC had stopped there, there was a slight chance of limiting the damage inflicted, the questions and shadows cast upon the work of the ERC, and the truths about what the first priorities of its members are. But he didn’t, and that was what dug a still deeper hole for all members of this board that stands as a trusted sentinel to oversee Guyana’s tensions and hostilities among its divided peoples. The chair proceeded to clear the air by uttering another incredible defence: it was that the $150,000 sum that the board awarded to itself was not a Christmas Bonus, but was viewed as and intended to serve as COVID-19 relief.
This is incredible, and somebody must think that Guyanese are dumb. They may be dumb, but no one should make the mistake that they are stupid. That so-called COVID-19 relief must be called for what it is in all of its elements: it is a Christmas Bonus by another name, one that is masquerading as something else, which it is clearly struggling to appear to be, but is not. And for it to be said that the ERC board discussions of the bonus/relief issue occurred prior to any information and knowledge about the amount that the government was going to finalize and, thus, it was the equivalent of a shot in the dark, or pulling lots with a different number written on each one, looks and sounds lame, and falls flat.
It stands to reason that there was no way that the current government, or any for that matter, was going to approve a bonus/relief number in the vicinity of six figures. Something is terribly wrong with that kind of thinking, and the ERC board members do not look in the best of lights, given what happened. We think that they erred with what flies before commonsense. We further think that the ERC chair added insult to injury when we tried to defend what happened, and the shaky rationales that he employed as covers.
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