The PNCR-1G and the ERC stand
Guyana Chronicle
May 18, 2007

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EVENTS in the National Assembly last week Thursday have raised questions as to whether the PNCR-1G has any interest in the country having a forum for complaints of ethnic discrimination to be made and dealt with, perceived ethnic problems to be resolved, ethnic issues to be discussed and for ethnic insecurities to be alleviated.

In 2000, the Constitution Reform Commission proposed and in 2001 the Parliament approved, legislation amending the Constitution to establish a number of commissions to deal with a variety of issues about which there were public concerns.

The Ethnic Relations Commission was seen as an important constitutional mechanism to address allegations of ethnic discrimination. It was expected that the ERC would assist in reducing ethnic insecurities and tensions generally.

It is no accident that allegations of ethnic discrimination have subsided significantly since the establishment of the ERC. But this is not all.

The ERC has facilitated wide-ranging discussions on issues of national concern which have played an important role in reducing tensions immediately prior to elections. It has published significant studies which have disproved allegations of institutional discrimination.

In fact, the ERC has earned its keep and has proved that it is a vital resource in governance.

It is with great dismay therefore that we view the National Assembly’s failure to approve the motion which would have facilitated the reconstitution of the ERC, its life having expired at the end of the last Parliament.

In the National Assembly last week Thursday, the main opposition PNCR-1G abstained from supporting a government motion, the objective of which was to approve the list of organisations to be consulted for nominees to the ERC and a mechanism for such consultation.

On the argument by the Opposition PNCR-1G that a part of the mechanism proposed was in breach of the Constitution, the government withdrew the offending portion.

The PNCR-1G also proposed that the number of organisations be expanded from a list of over one hundred to include professional bodies despite the fact that professionals had been members of the last ERC.

Already having an unwieldy number of organisations and bearing in mind the likelihood of professionals being members, the government held its position and the PNCR-1G abstained. Since the motion required a two-third majority which it did not get despite the support of the AFC, it failed.

This means that the ERC will not be established.

The PNCR-1G will now be in a position to resume its wild and provocative allegations of discrimination without having to prove anything and without any possibility of their allegations being subjected to impartial scrutiny.

Could there be any other explanation for the PNCR-1G’s vote, or non-vote?