“CRITIC must go before the court!” and “Roshan Khan got to go!” were the two main chants of the scores of protestors in front of the Ethnic Relations Commission (ERC) on Friday morning.
The protest stemmed from the social media remarks of popular Guyanese figure ‘Guyanese Critic,’ who made on his platform distasteful remarks about people of African descent. The first post was made a few weeks ago, and the ERC has since asked ‘Critic’ to issue an apology to those he offended.
However, another racist post was made by the individual after the apology, and citizens are displeased with the work of the ERC on race-related issues in Guyana.
At the protest on Friday, the pain and passion in the people were evident as they shouted for their voices to be heard, saying that the ERC must serve the people according to the oath they took.
Former Guyanese beauty queen Melessa Payne, who was at the protest, told the Guyana Chronicle that they have had enough of the disrespect from Guyanese Critic and he should be sanctioned for inciting racism in the country.
“We are standing up for what we believe is right. We are standing in solidarity against racism in Guyana and the absurd remarks made by the Guyanese Critic. Remarks discriminating religion in general, calling black people grass-eaters and that they can’t read and write. We want equality and we want Critic to be placed before the court,” Payne said
She also pointed out that they are lobbying for Commissioner Roshan Khan to be removed, since he has taken a political bias, and is using politics “to drown one set of people.”
Another protestor, Cheryl Thomas, said that it has been far too long that Critic has been disrespecting the African race of Guyana.
“I think the ERC should sanction Critic now and bring him before the court; this is the second time he has disrespected the African race and Guyanese descent,” she passionately said.
Carl Solomon said he joined the protest because he feels that the ERC has a constitutional responsibility to ensure that matters of ethnicity are treated appropriately. As such, he is asking the ERC to act now to ensure that the Critic is brought before the court and to remove commissioner Roshan Khan, “because his political stance is a hindrance to the tenants [sic] of the ERC.”
Solomon went on to say that the Guyanese Critic personality is known for making statements that are both inflammatory and divisive and the ERC when called upon to act against those utterances, seem to be taking a recalcitrant attitude.
“We are calling on them now to act against this individual,” he said. Solomon further stated that recently the Critic made another statement and posted a picture of a person which he referred to in the most derogatory of terms.
He noted that the ERC when dealing with Critic in the past, gave him what is referred to as ‘a slap in the wrist’.
“We are asking them to sanction him now because his statement threatens the stability, peace and tranquility we enjoy as Guyanese, because there is only so long that persons might be able to stand up or accept these kinds of utterances and racism coming from these individuals,” the man warned.
Also sharing her view on the protest line, political activist Shondelle Smith- Daniels said what the critic displayed was completely and utterly disrespectful. She further related that she came out because she is tired of the racism.
“I’m tired of the racism; I am tired of my culture being disrespected and nothing is being done. I came out because the ERC did basically nothing when he did the first rant. I am here also because every day we have Roshan Khan on social media who is showing bias,” she related.
Smith-Daniels explained that she is not interested in one’s political affiliation, but when one holds a certain office they should have a neutral position.
“If you check his social media page you will see what I am talking about and when he makes these quotes, some nasty comments follows [sic] and he deletes them, but he is the source. It must stop. He has no morals, he has no ethics and anything going forward to him will be bias [sic] and we are asking for him [Roshan Khan] to go,” she said.
The image circulating on Facebook shows a photo purported to be a black personality with the caption, “This is what sanctions look like.”
This publication contacted Khan, who said in his personal capacity that everyone has a right to freedom of speech and that the ERC cannot please everyone.
“I have no issues with anybody, by race, religion or culture. The whole world knows that. Some people will not like what you do certain times and some people would say step down, and that is their right also. But I don’t do anything to hurt anyone, and I wouldn’t do anything ever to cause disharmony or disrespect to citizens of this country. It’s not within my DNA nor within my upbringing or socialisation. Some people may not like what a person says, I can’t stop that. But I always try to be balanced or fair. But at the same time if I have an opinion, that something has happened, then I have a right to say so. I find it strange that other people from the same institution are writing in the papers and are not being targeted, but some people are targeting me because for some reason or the other, they feel that I might be hurting or doing something to them in particular. It’s a prejudicial thing…” Khan said.
Khan highlighted too, that he believes the ERC is an extraordinary institution that works for good will and harmony. “It is hard to please everyone. You can’t please everyone… But I personally feel that ERC is doing a fantastic piece of work,” he said.
The commission later on Friday sent out a press statement that it continues to receive a plethora of complaints which are deemed to be racially insensitive and inciting and which target individuals, politicians and political parties. Many of these complaints emanate from social media postings.
The statement said that the ERC’s capacity has been unavoidably reduced, resulting from adherence to COVID-19 protocols and restrictions. But it continues to work towards assessing and investigating complaints in a timeframe within the context noted.
“The commission, being fully cognisant of the devastating impact these incidents, which incite race hate and violence, have on the further widening of division among the ethnic groups and the need for investigations to be completed swiftly, seeks the public’s indulgence for understanding. It assures of its continual efforts to work assiduously to have these matters resolved within the shortest possible time.
“Regrettably, the commission cannot conceal its disappointment that such unnecessary attempts to divide our people continue openly, despite its repeated calls for cessation and for all who are involved, including political leaders and their supporters, to act in a more responsible manner in the best interest of our dear nation. Those calls are therefore reiterated with the fervent hope [that] they will be heeded,” the statement outlined.