Hearings into Gibson's book end, commission to rule
May 26, 2004
The Ethnic Relations Commission (ERC) is to rule on an inquiry into The Cycle of Racial Oppression in Guyana, written by Dr. Kean Gibson, when it convenes for its statutory meeting next month, Chairman, Bishop Juan Edghill said.
Edghill's announcement came yesterday during a press briefing held by the ERC to inform the media of the commission's progress to date and outline its plans for the future.
The ERC has been hearing a series of contrasting presentations after it opened an inquiry following a complaint by the Indian Arrival Committee that Gibson's book "is peddling and spreading racial hatred between Guyana's principal ethnic groups."
The hearing concluded on May 17 and the ERC is now expected to deliberate on the content of each presentation and come up with suitable recommendations based on its findings.
Edghill told the media that the ERC intends to adopt a pro-active strategy in responding to issues of race relations and any other matter that is referred to the commission.
According to Edghill, the ERC will conduct detailed research to establish how, for instance, house lots are allocated and awards distributed in order to ensure that its findings and subsequent recommendations are based on "empirical" evidence.
In response to questions from the media, Edghill explained that the ERC receives funding from the Consolidated Fund with assistance from the donor community for certain special projects.
The ERC has officially received nine complaints to date and, according to Edghill, it operates within its mandate as stipulated under Parliamentary Act No. 11 of 2000 - constitution amendment [No. 2] Act 2000.
Edghill disclosed that the ERC comprises three major units: public education and awareness, legal and investigative and dispute resolution/arbitration. The commission will seek to reach out to schools and children, regions throughout the country and political, business and social leaders.
In its effort to fulfil its mandate, the ERC plans to host Conflict Transformation Training, at both the basic and advanced levels, during next month and a series of film festivals that are expected to get underway in August.
According to Edghill, overseas Expert and Facilitator, Joanna Thomas, will conduct the Conflict Transformation Training starting in the Essequibo area with each session lasting over four days and capacity to accommodate at least 20 persons. He further informed that the objective of the film festival, which includes short films and documentaries, is to "...introduce other types of conflict and develop strategies which were employed elsewhere to overcome these conflicts; foster discussion at the national and local levels to overcome hurts and injustices and promote constructive responses to the challenges facing Guyana and address sustainable conflict transformation processes for a better future for all Guyanese."
At present, the ERC is catering for a total of 16 staff members but Edghill noted that as its workload increases, the size of the staff could increase to 35.
The media was further informed that the commission has held six meetings with political stakeholders in Guyana including GAP, Justice for All, Good and Green Guyana, PNCR, ROAR and PPP/C; and has also had seven meetings with its constituents.
The commission, whose members include in addition to Edghill, Major General Rtd, Norman McLean; Pandit Ramkissoon Maharaj; Dr. Frank Anthony; Andrew Garnett; Cheryl Sampson and Shahabudeen McDoom, has also participated in two workshops which focused on strategic issues, goals, the upcoming film festival, regional visits, organisational matters, staffing, media strategy and education.
Edghill also reiterated that the ERC did not at any time suggest that school children be taught to view Guyanese as one race rather than acknowledge the six races that constitute our ethnic and cultural origin.
He said this view had been among a number of suggestions that had come out of a special session convened by the ERC during the early stages of its work and had subsequently been misreported.
He noted that certain groups had been particularly offended by this pronouncement and underscored the importance of the ERC separating itself from it.