Letter: Dynamic, solution-driven, proactive, visionary new ERC needed

Deodat Persaud

Dear Editor,

I am advised that the current Board of Commissioners at ERC has come to an end. In the weeks coming I shall be offering a few interviews on my stint. I am thankful to have served and appointed as the youngest Commissioner in Guyana. Certainly, I have left wiser but immensely disappointed at our performance in many instances. Having completed degrees in management, I have developed an intolerance for inefficiency, incompetency and ineffectiveness.

Further, as core values I hold, I value transparency, accountability and openness in public bodies. Regrettably, many times, these could not be achieved given the challenges of such a diverse body and the pace it took to make a single decision. Then, the presence of a cabal. I get impatient by weak leadership. Could we have done more? Yes! Were there challenges beyond our control? Yes!

I thank the many who have supported me by way of advice, criticisms, sending in concerns, etc I thank the nominating and voting bodies who have believed in me. I remain ever willing to serve. I thank the many kind staff members too.

My hope is that we do not have a repeat of some of the last Commissioners in the new body. This nation must ensure that we have dynamic, energetic, determined, solution-driven, proactive, visionary, hard-working, objective persons to serve on this important body. I still believe that fixing our race issue is an achievable goal.

Whether we have left the ERC in a better or worst state will be a matter of public perception. I am humbled by the many meaningful contributions I was able to make amidst an often toxic environment. I will never forget those “o he is young and inexperienced” stereotyping statements. But I prevailed. There were many times, I asked myself “what else does a young person need to be doing in order to be listened to”.

Then I coined this expression, that “an appointment for a young person neither sufficient nor adequate in a world dominated by thinkers of yesteryear”. Then there were comments such as “Deo bai, you really rocking up the boat”, “Deo, keep the independent thinking going”, “Commissioner, your thinking is much needed”; those kept me grounded and motivated.

The 2020 General and Regional Elections affected Guyanese deeply and unfortunately, many constitutional bodies could not pass that impartiality test. Since the passing of the no-Confidence Motion, ERC began to succumb to pressures. It took as much as 4 hours to get a simple press release out! But, that’s how democracy works.

Regardless, if I return or not, I shall continue to play my part in ensuring we build a Guyana where everyone, irrespective of his/ her ethnicity, religion, gender, political persuasion, can all benefit from equal opportunity and a “piece of that pie”. This is 2021, discrimination should be a thing of the past.

I have made a personal list of recommendations as I depart. Many other recommendations were made via the national conversation such as the need to collect data, constitution reform, etc.

Changes within ERC

1. The office of ERC Chairman should be full time.
2. The Constitution should clearly define the function of the Secretariat.
3. ERC should expand its services to the 10 administrative regions.
4. (Omitted for public consumption).
5. There is a need to immediately address the inadequacy of the HR Policy document.
6. Professional development must be prioritised among staff.
7. Roles of Commissioners should be defined by law.
8. While ERC has commenced prosecution, other powers such as subpoena witness should be considered.
9. There is need for a new building to allow for expansion.
10. Implementation of Sub Committee protocol document as drafted by yours truly.
11. Implementation of Strategic Plan.
12. Work on Image and branding repair.
13. Adopt code of conduct for staff as drafted by yours truly.
14. For continuity, a Board should come to an end when a new one is formed.
15. Develop a software to monitor complaints.

Changes outside of ERC

1. There is need for affirmative action be taken to bring diversity in public sector.
2. More research done on matters affecting Guyanese.
3. The need for a Memorandum of Understanding to be developed with different countries as it relates to persons making racially insensitive statements living outside of Guyana and in order to hold them accountable.
4. Stronger penalties for public officials who make racially insensitive comments.
5. Establish Regional Ethnic Relations Committee.
6. Incorporate a race relations component within the school curriculum.
7. Develop a working relationship with Facebook Inc in an effort to better monitor and censor race hate comments.
8. Develop a working relationship with other Ministries to address issues relating to the distribution of public goods.
9. Reward companies for promoting equality and ethnic diversity in employment.
10. Engage the grassroots in race relation discussions.

Deodat Persaud
ERC Commissioner