Ethnic relations body holds first meeting
August 27, 2003
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Bishop Juan Edghill, the representative of the Christian community, was yesterday unanimously elected chairman of the Ethnic Relations Commission (ERC) at an historic first meeting.
The deputy chairman is Norman McLean, the representative of the private sector, also unanimously elected.
Bishop Edghill was elected by the seven voting members of the commission who met for the first time at a meeting convened by Ralph Ramkarran, the Speaker of the National Assembly in his Ceremonial Office, Public Buildings.
Pandit Ramkissoon Maraj, the representative of the Hindu community nominated Bishop Edghill and Shahabudeen McDoom seconded the nomination. Bishop Edghill nominated McLean as deputy chairman and McDoom seconded the nomination. The other members present and voting were Cheryl Sampson, Dr Frank Anthony and Andrew Garnett.
Bishop Edghill in a brief interview with the Stabroek News said that his expectations of the Commission were that its members would work together as a team in a spirit of unanimity and consensus to bring about national healing.
The other members of the commission, who will not have the right to vote, are the nominees of the Indigenous People’s Commission, the Women and Gender Equality Commission, the Commission for the Rights of the Child and the Human Rights Commission. These commissions, as well as the Ethnic Relations Commission are creations of the amendments to the constitution. Unlike the Ethnic Relations Commission the others are yet to be constituted.
Among other things, the constitution provides that the commission is to ensure the equality of opportunity between persons of different ethnic groups and to promote harmony and good relations between such persons, promote the elimination of all forms of discrimination on the basis of ethnicity, encourage and create respect for religious, cultural and other forms of diversity in a plural society and investigate on its own accord, or on the request of the National Assembly or any other body, any issues affecting ethnic relations.
The ERC has been long in the making. Despite being agreed to several years ago, the process for its constitution lay dormant for many months as the requisite invitations were not sent out to the various groups by the Parliament Office. When the invitations finally went out several of the groups were dilatory in deciding on their representatives.
A tribunal, to hear appeals stemming from the decisions of the ERC, also has to be inaugurated.