Ethnic Relations C'n to be more pro-active in New Year
Guyana Chronicle
December 19, 2003

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Chairman of the Ethnic Relations Commission, Bishop Juan Edghill (third from left) addresses members of the media at a Press Conference held at Parliament Buildings Library. Others members of the Commission present were (from extreme right) - Dr. Frank Anthony; Pandit Ramkissoon Maharaj; Ms. Cheryl Sampson; and Vice Chairman, Major General Norman Mc Lean.
The Ethnic Relations Commission, now with two cases before it since its formation earlier this year, is looking towards a re-energized role in the new year ahead, in the interest of better serving of the people of Guyana, in keeping with its specific mandate devolved on it by the Constitution.

The seven-member body, which was established under Constitutional Law, and took their oath of office on May 5, 2003, yesterday held a Press Conference at Parliament Buildings. The purpose of the Press Conference was to bring members of the media up to date on its workings, and plans for the year ahead.

The Press Conference was chaired by Bishop Juan Edghill, duly elected Chairman of the Commission at its first meeting held on August 26. Following that meeting, the body held nine other meetings, at its temporary meeting place - the Public Buildings Library.

Bishop Edghill outlined that, apart from its Constitutional and other statutory duties, the Commission has planned to have a number of interactive sessions with ethnic based organizations, its constitutencies, that is - the religious bodies, and other entities comprising the membership of the Commission; political parties; all Regional Democratic Councils, Municipalities and the public at large.

That apart, the Commission, he said, had already met with President Bharrat Jagdeo and the Head of the Presidential Secretariat, Dr. Roger Luncheon and discussed a list of proposals it had formulated.

Expressing optimism for the future, an elated Bishop Edghill stated: "We have learnt that the proposals are on the front burner of the Office of the President, and we are very grateful for this."

The Commission has already created a Legal and Investigative Unit, which will be involved in such matters as the promotion of arbitration, conciliation, mediation, and the like forms of dispute resolution, the Chairman said. It will also monitor and review all Legislation and administrative acts or omissions, relating to, or having implications for ethnic relations.

Albeit, both Bishop Edghill and Pandit Ramkissioon Maharaj, who holds the office of Chairman of the George town Peace Council, were of the view that the functions of the Ethnic Relations Commission will, in no way interfere with, or constitute a usurption of the functions of the Peace Councils nationally.

Bishop Edghill assured that the Ethnic Relations Commission will be working in collaboration with such entities.

The present Commission is comprised of seven members - one each from the following entities (Women, Youth, Private Business Sector and the Trade Union Movement The Members are: Bishop Juan Edghill - Chairman; Major General Norman Mc Lean - Deputy Chairman; Dr. Frank Anthony; Pandit Ramkissoon Maharaj; Shahabudin Mc Doom; Andrew Garnett. The substitutes are Pastor Roy Thakurdyal, John Willems, Dr. Rajendra Singh, Shafeek Khan, Carvil Duncan, Leila Austin and Radha Krishna Sharma.

The services of Director of Public Prosecutions (acting), Ms. Roxanne George-Wiltshire have been engaged to sit with the Commission and clarify issues pertaining to the Constitutional provisions within the sphere, as well as laws that would impinge on the Commission's functions, Bishop Edghill said.

Having completed its rules of procedure, now with the law offices, the Ethnic Relations Commission prceeded to fashion its work programme. The projected life of the first phase of the programme expires at the end of June, 2004.

Bishop Edghill pointed out that the Dr. Kean Gibson's Book - The Cycle of Racial Oppression in Guyana is one of the two cases now before the Commission. The other - a private matter, has to do with racial discrimination in a given work organization. An in-house examination is soon to begin, into these two issues.

Plans are on the card for the acquisition of a permanent office - the Bidco Building in Queenstown, and this hopefully, should be acquired by Ferbruary, 2004. Full time staff is also to be employed to man the Secretariat, and the expenditure of the Commission's Secretariat is to be financed by the Consolidated Fund, determined as a lump sum by way of an annual subvention, approved by the National Assembly, Bishop Edghill said.