Commission getting feel for ethnic relations
Stabroek News
April 14, 2004

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The Ethnic Relations Commission (ERC) is working to build capacity and alliances for the fulfilling of its constitutional mandate.

So said chairman, Bishop Juan Edghill when the ERC held a briefing yesterday to inform the public about its work programme which includes meetings with various organisations.

He noted that the body had held 16 statutory meetings so far and ten special meetings with labour, the private sector, youth, women and the Hindu, Christian and Muslim religious communities. He said the commission had been conducting awareness sessions for groups including the Guyana Action Party, the Justice for All Party, and the Good and Green Guyana. The ERC is also scheduled to meet with the main political parties.

Edghill noted that special consultations were held to look at the situation with regard to crime. This includes the allegations made in relation to Home Affairs Minister Ronald Gajraj and a death squad. A number of organisations have made recommendations about this situation, he said.

The body is also looking at recruiting staff and has received applications for the positions of Chief Executive Officer/Secretary; Co-ordinator of Dispute Resolution; head of education and awareness; and head of the legal and investigative unit. He noted that a sub-committee was responsible for the short-listing and the appointment of applicants, which should be done before the end of the month.

The Committee Chairman said the ERC has been receiving complaints in relation to Dr. Kean Gibson's book "Cycle of Racial Oppression", including one from the Indian Arrival Committee (IAC). He said that up to yesterday they had received a total of eight written submissions, and four organisations have opted to make presentations.

The ERC said it is continuing to work with ethnic-based groups and would be going out to the ten administrative regions to build alliances and bring about harmonious relations.

The commission is also looking at building capacity and training peace educators to conduct training. The trainers would then be dispatched to the regions to teach peace education.

Meanwhile committee member Andrew Garnette sought to clarify an issue that came out of the March 26 meeting with non-governmental organisations where a suggestion was made that Guyanese children should not be taught about the six races [ please note: link provided by LOSP web site ] but to deal with one human race.

He said in a recent release the commission did refer to the suggestion by that group. However, the ERC has not made such a recommendation. He said he would like to dispel the notion that Guyanese should forget about race and ethnic groups but rather they should be able to operate harmoniously [ please note: link provided by LOSP web site ] .

Ramkissoon Maharaj, who is representing the Hindu community and Carvil Duncan, a substitute commissioner for labour, also attended the press briefing.

The Ethnic Relations Committee (ERC) commenced its work in September 2003 and had held a press briefing in December to inform the public about its activities.