Keith Burrowes: It is after great consideration that I’ve decided to bring into the public domain the following issue, against my own initial instinct and the advice of friends who believe that addressing it forthwith would only exacerbate the problem. Over the past month, I have been forced to endure what is becoming an increasingly vicious campaign of character assassination, perpetrated primarily through the peddling of lies via e-mails and on some blogs.
First of all, I should say that I have never been overly sensitive. For years, I have held various public offices and can deal with unwarranted criticisms and negative actions – I am neither bothered by the downright lies peddled by these bloggers nor of their name calling exercise against me. However, in recent days, I have noticed a worrying tendency, on their part, to extend their lies to my family. They have crossed the line.
The extent to which these people are willing to engage in a smear campaign raises important questions and challenges for those who may wish to serve and make a contribution to this country. It is against this background that I wish to put my service to the state into perspective.
I am not nor have I ever been a card-bearing member of any political party; I’ve always served in the interest of fairness.
My contribution to what I would consider public service began in the early 1980s when the then President Forbes Burnham asked me to be part of a team to manage a portion of land which he had donated to the school I attended at that time for a farm project. I received an award, from President Burnham, for my stewardship of that land and other resources connected to it. That was an experience that taught me the value of service to community and country. It is one I shall never forget. That project assisted with revenue for the school as well as provided food, at a reasonable cost, to students, teachers and other residents.
Under President Desmond Hoyte, I worked on a number of projects connected to public activities. During my tenure, at a city bank, the President was invited to be patron of the flagship activity for our evenings of classical music. He kindly consented and attended the sessions. In the early 90s, President Dr. Cheddi Jagan was invited and also agreed to be patron of that very activity, which he was vocal in his praise of. The proceeds were used for a noble cause in a local community. During the presidencies of both Desmond Hoyte and Dr. Cheddi Jagan, I served on state boards and was involved in a number of activities aimed at improving the lives of citizens in different local communities. I had and still do have a policy that all board fees paid to me should be donated to the welfare of the employees of organizations or the entities in which I served.
Some citizens may recall that when a merger was announced between the bank where I served and another bank, I had cause to brief the public through several press conferences in an effort to ensure that the workers got their deserved payments and other benefits. Those employees were the ones who kept the entity together during the toughest of times and I was not prepared to allow anyone to short-change them.
I am an unrepentant nationalist. Therefore, I am always willing to serve for the development of Guyana. I believe that I have a serious responsibility as a citizen to use my expertise, knowledge and skills to advance the interest of this nation. Under the current PPP/C administration, I have been asked to serve on several boards, to which I have agreed. Much to their credit, no one in that political party has ever tried to influence me to compromise my principles or integrity. In fact, I have been able to operate without hindrance. I have the ease of performing my duties with a high level of professionalism.
It is common knowledge that recently I served as the Commissioner of Inquiry into the affairs of the Mayor and City Council. I did that at great personal sacrifice but with fairness and objectivity. It was tedious and there were many serious challenges. However, I did it knowing fully well that the work of the Commission would ultimately improve the work of the Council, positively impact on the quality of municipal service, and consequently advance the interest of the City of Georgetown. Again, in keeping with my policy of not accepting remuneration for the public service I’m engaged in, I distributed the money paid to me for the work conducted by the Commission of Inquiry (CoI) to the team of non-Commission members who assisted the work of the said Commission. It must be said that I am serving in these various areas in the face of my commitment to a full-time job as Executive Director of the Health Sector Development Unit.
It is my considered view, that race, in particular, and associated partisan politics have negatively affected the development of this country. Everything appears to be measured by the colour line rather than national goals. There are so many who are competent and willing to act in the public interest but who are afraid of being chastised or smeared. People who refuse to serve in various capacities for the public good under this, or indeed any, administration because of fear of shadows – with their own personal agendas – are providing traction to the work of the mischief-makers and according them exactly what they want.
In closing, I would like to directly address those who are behind this campaign – I have engaged in public service in a public and open manner; therefore, it would only be fitting, once what you are disseminating by covert means has any validity or veracity – to come out in the open and publicly express your feelings. It was Confucius who said “three things cannot long be hidden: the sun, the moon and the truth. I remain committed to serving Guyana, without favour and most importantly without fear.