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Ethnic Relations Commission
66 Peter Rose & Anira Streets, Queenstown, Georgetown, Guyana
Tel. +592-231-6479, 231-6473,
231-6281, 231-6265
Fax: +592-231-6246

October 8, 2007

ETHNIC RELATIONS COMMISSION PRESS STATEMENT

The Ethnic Relations Commission (ERC) thanks the media for responding favourably to its invitation to this Press Briefing.

Since the last Press Briefing, the Commission has been reconstituted and is now in the process of completing its scheduled activities for the remainder of the year.

ERC status Quo remains- President Jagdeo

At the last briefing, the Chairman of the ERC, Bishop Juan Edghill disclosed to the media that the Commission was awaiting a decision from his Excellency President Bharrat Jagdeo concerning the status of terms of Commissioners. The President has since pronounced the ERC’s status quo should remain, in the interim, until there is an agreement at the parliamentary level.

The pronouncement came in the wake of a ‘vote of confidence’ expressed by representatives of the ERC’s constituencies and other interest groups, at a meeting held on September 6, 2007 at the Office of the President.

At that meeting, the Head of State told the representatives that a consultation with them concerning the continued functioning of the ERC was undesirable. “The ideal is to reach an understanding in Parliament,” he said. However, President Jagdeo noted that the failure to achieve a parliamentary majority to agree on the consensual mechanism to allow persons to be nominated to serve on the ERC could cause “all of its work to dissipate and this would be undesirable for the nation and the constituencies involved.” 

Against this backdrop, he noted that it was prudent to garner the opinions of the constituencies and thereafter make a decision using his presidential powers, as Parliament through a resolution, agreed he should do, at its August 9 sitting.  The President thereafter encouraged representatives to state their opinions as it relates to the reconstitution of the ERC. 

After discussions and views expressed that the ERC status quo should remain, a motion was moved to determine whether that was the general consensus of everyone present and the latter was conveyed.   

MSF National Conversation Work Group to hold third quarterly meeting

The Working Group selected from the National Conversation to be the Lobbying Agent for the recommendations which came out of the Multi-Stakeholder Forum will convene its third quarterly meeting on October 16, 2007.

The Group met in June, last for its second meeting when it received training in the areas of lobbying and advocacy by USAID Consultant, Ms Bonita Harris. The USAID facilitated that training.

At its second meeting also, the Group started a discussion on a system of governance which would ensure ethnic security in Guyana. Several representatives from constituencies which comprise the Group presented their organization's position on the topic. PNC/R representative said that there should be the creation of conditions for an executive government that includes all groups whether ethnic, religious or linguistics while the PPP/C representative noted that all stakeholders must work together in trust and unity for the greater good of the country, to ensure ethnic security in governance. The representative said that the PPP/C was open minded in its approached to shared governance as suggested by the opposition.

Other representatives from the Labour Union, the AFC and Private Sector also presented their views. The discussion will continue when the Group meets next week.

Regional Visits

The ERC is visiting Region Ten, Upper Demerara- Upper Berbice on Thursday October 11 to Saturday October 13, 2007.

During this call on Region Ten, the Commission will be conducting several activities, specifically, a meeting with the Regional Executives: Regional Democratic Council, Neighbourhood Democratic Council and Interim Management Committee, a Public Consultation with Civil Society, and its public education activities targeting young people. The ERC also intends to extend this visit beyond Linden McKenzie area to Ituni and Kwakwani where similar activities will be carried out. The Commission’s Investigative Unit will also be accepting complaints from persons with issues of discrimination based on race, religion and culture.

The main focus of the consultations with the Regional Executive members and Civil Society is to apprise them of five areas of research the ERC commissioned, namely:

  • The award of academic scholarship with regards to equal opportunity
  • Public procurement in Guyana as it relates to fairness and openness
  • Equity in the award and distribution of economic opportunities
  • An assessment of existing practices in land distribution
  • Employment practices

The Commission will attempt to get a sense of the region’s thinking on the discussion which is engaging the attention of the Multi-Stakeholder Forum - National Conversation Working Group, that is, a system of Governance which will ensure ethnic security in Guyana.

During the months of October, November and December, the Commission will be making similar visits to Regions One, Three, Four, Five, Six, Seven, Eight and Region Nine.

Public Consultation with the African- Guyanese Community

Under Article 212D (u) of the Constitution the Ethnic Relations Commission mandated is to:

Consult with other bodies and persons to determine and specify the perceived needs of the various ethnic groups for the fostering of harmonious relationship. 

Against this backdrop, the ERC will be holding a consultation from November 13-16, 2007 with the African-Guyanese Community to look into their perceived needs. The ERC is inviting African- Guyanese organisations, groups and individuals to present their concerns in oral or written form.

PUBLIC EDUCATION AND AWARENESS ACTIVITIES

Female Windball Competition

The ERC’s Public Education and Awareness Unit is involved in concluding its Female Windball Competition, an activity launched in March this year, in collaboration with the Ministry of Culture Youth and Sports, to promote harmony and good relations among young people through sports.

The Competition has been completed in Regions Two, Six and Ten, so far. It has had to be curtailed because of the participating schools’ internal curricula activities. In Region Two, eight schools participated including the New Opportunity Corp (NOC). Anna Regina Multilateral School emerged the winner after a splendid victory over NOC. In the Region Ten, ten schools participated, including Kwakwani and Ituni Secondary Schools. Linden Technical Institute copped the winning trophy. Region Six Competition saw 26 secondary schools participated. Corentyne Comprehensive copped the regional trophy after defeating Vrymans Erven CHS. Schools in Region Five are currently participating in the Competition.

Film Festival
During the ERC’s Regional Visits, Commissioners will be conducting Lectures at various sessions of the Film Festivals in schools within the regions. 

The Unit will also cater for the out-of-school youth through Youth Workshops aimed at engendering skills within them to become ambassadors for peace.

The ERC’s Film Festival programme has been boosted with the acquisition of four (4) new films pertaining to conflict resolution and good relations in the workplace, the school environment and other social settings. The Public Education and Awareness Unit is now taking these films to Public and Private Sector organizations.

The Unit recently conducted sessions of the Film Festival with the Guyana Public Service Union, the Guyana Power and Light Company and the Guyana Forestry Commission. It also conducted 23 sessions at July/August Vacation camps sponsored by the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sport.

ERC’s Participation at GUYEXPO

In an effort to promote awareness among the public about the work and functions of the ERC, the ERC participated in GUYEXPO 2007. Thousand of pamphlets were distributed, detailing the conceptualization, work and functions of the ERC. A number of organizations from religious, social and educational origins indicated their interest in having the ERC facilitate programmes on harmony and conflict resolution.

LEGAL AND INVESTIGATIVE UNIT

The Legal and Investigative Unit received 36 complaints for the year 2007. 34 were brought over from 2006.

28 complaints were closed for 2006 and 23 for this year, giving a total of 51 complaints being addressed over the two-year period.

Currently, 19 complaints are pending. 11 of those were referred to other organisations, three are awaiting further statements from the complainants, three have been sent for legal advice and 2 are pending added information. 

The ERC has received a complaint from Mr. Cyril Walker pertaining remarks made by a director of the New Building Society at specially convened meeting held recently. However, this complaint is on hold because he has not supplied further statements on the matter.

The ERC wishes to advise the general public that when making complaints, adequate information has to be supplied and speaking to the media does not mean that the ERC is aware of the details of a matter.

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