I am compelled by every decent fibre in my consciousness to express outrage, disbelief and utter frustration that the discourse which surrounds the unilateral appointment of the GECOM chairman by President David Granger would move so swiftly into the gutter. This ought to be an intellectual discourse as it relates to the constitutional provisions instead of an open unbridled perpetuation of racism and a pro-black agenda by a small group of Guyanese who clearly have special interests.
For the purposes of clarity it is my belief that no race is superior to another, neither should anyone be discriminated or positively promoted because of his or her race. I believe in meritocracy. A person should be judged on the content of their character, their performance, their capacity and more importantly their integrity. All race groups have produced outstanding, distinguished and noble citizens in this country and we have persons of all race groups on the wrong side of the law. Having said that, let me now respond to public utterances of the Rastafarian Community of All Guyana, The African Cultural and Development Association (ACDA), Pan African Group (Guyana) Branch, The All African Guyanese Association and Concerned Citizens in the Diaspora.
The Rastafarian Community of All Guyana which i have noted are 12 citizens as distinct from the Guyana Rastafarian Council said these words “Thus, of the six General and Regional Elections since the implementation of the Carter Formula, five have been chaired by a Guyanese of East Indian descent and one by a Guyanese of African Descent. For our sacred space and consciousness as a multi-racial society, “we urge all Guyanese to embrace the appointment of Justice James Patterson, a Guyanese of African descent. This bodes well for ethnic relations within Guyana. We are in the United Nations Decade for People of African Descent.”
This statement is:
(a) Toxic and laden with a pro-African agenda and it is an open promotion of a belief ‘’its afro-Guyanese time now”.
(b) It represents a total misunderstanding of the Carter formula since all of the names extracted and appointed GECOM chairman came from the various lists submitted by various Leaders of the Opposition during the 1990 to 2015 period. In every instance, six (6) names were submitted and on every occasion the President, from that first list chose one (1) name. The PPP/C whilst in office had no way of installing an indo-Guyanese as chairman of GECOM if that name was not submitted by the then Leader of the Opposition. At no time was an indo-Guyanese unilaterally appointed by any PPP/C President as chairman of GECOM. Mr Doodnauth Singh S.C., Major General (Rtd) Joseph Singh and Dr Steve Surujbally were names on lists submitted by Mr Desmond Hoyte S.C. to the then President of Guyana. Those lists included among others, twice, the name Brigadier (Rtd) David Granger.
(c) The issue of the race or ethnicity of the six (6) nominated persons as required by Article 161 (2) of the Constitution was never a matter of discussion. Race is not a criteria for suitability for this post. Even if for argument sake, race is to be considered in this appointment; why didn’t the President choose any of the afro-Guyanese that were named among the eighteen (18) persons submitted by the current Leader of the Opposition?
(d) The “Rastafarian Community of All Guyana” may want to consider this outlandish and ill-advised commentary, for in their above-mentioned statement they have disparaged the names and reputations of very eminent, qualified, distinguished and upstanding afro-Guyanese. On behalf of all Guyana I do offer these eighteen distinguished Guyanese my sincere apology for this mistreatment.
This diatribe must be rejected as the views of twelve (12) Rastafarians and not the views of the Rastafarian community in Guyana or the majority of afro-Guyanese citizens.
I now turn my attention to the African Cultural and Development Association (ACDA), Pan African Group (Guyana) Branch, the All African Guyanese Association and Concerned Citizens in the Diaspora.
In a very bold attempt these four (4) groups have sought to justify President Granger’s action as constitutional by beating the drums of racism. In one statement they have attacked, insulted and created wedges, built walls of division by coming up against every group that has spoken as it relates to the President’s action in an unfavourable manner. This is a worrying development and can be viewed as an evil of monumental proportions.
Is the Private Sector Commission all Indians? Don’t we have successful afro-Guyanese entrepreneurs and businessmen?
Is the Guyana Human Rights Association a partner of the PPP/C? Laughable!
Are all the Guyanese lawyers, businessmen, accountants and other professionals indo-Guyanese who have benefited, according to their statement “in a developed criminal state of money laundering, theft and embezzlement, etc.”? Are all our professionals crooks? Unbelievable!
Are all the beneficiaries of lands, radio and television licenses, house lots, scholarships etc under the PPP/C indo-Guyanese? Who revoked the leases of the 41 afro-Guyanese farmers at Seafield on the West Coast of Berbice?
Are all of the people who died during the vicious crime wave as a result of extra-judicial killings only afro-Guyanese? Were they killed by indo-Guyanese? It is time for these groups to be honest with themselves and the Guyanese people.
Is it true as stated by these groups “that the PSC, GCCI, GMSA, bankers, Indian Supremacists, accountants, lawyers and others whom have illegitimately benefitted under the PPP/C are showing their true colours as they continue to sabotage our ‘democracy’ with the hope of again plundering Guyana with its new found oil wealth”?.
Do these organizations, which include in their leadership Mr Eric Phillips and Tacuma Ogunseye – paid employees of the Ministry of the Presidency –, represent the views of the masses of afro-Guyanese? Certainly not!
This jaundiced and unsubstantiated view must not be allowed to be peddled unchallenged. Afro-Guyanese like all other peoples have core values and are guided by principles that are highly elevated beyond the mere lens of racism.
I call upon all my fellow afro-Guyanese brothers and sisters and all other Guyanese, including my respected elders from the above- named groups, to be responsible, civil and stay within the bounds of decency as we debate and engage on this very sensitive matter of the President’s unilateral appointment of the GECOM chairman.
Bishop Juan A. Edghill
Former Chairman of the Ethnic Relations Commission