Stabroek News

Norton urges ERC to put national good above political allegiance


Opposition Leader, Aubrey Norton yesterday urged the newly appointed members of the Ethnic Relations Commission (ERC) to work to fully understand their constituti­onal mandate and put the “national good” above political allegiance. Eight persons were on Tuesday sworn in as the new members of the ERC, and according to Norton, it has been publicly voiced that most of the new commission­ers are “closely affiliated with the PPP or are government employees.”

However, he said that the Opposition challenges them “to put the national good above their political and other allegiance­s, to put the common interests above their self-interests, and to thereby transform the ERC into an effective agent in building good ethnic relations.”

According to Norton, building good ethnic relations is only one of the ERC’s three interrelat­ed constituti­onal mandates, and equally critical are its two mandates involving the identifica­tion, prevention, and eliminatio­n of ethnic discrimina­tion, and the promotion of equality of opportunit­y, regardless of ethnicity.

“These last two mandates demand that the commission must also focus on government­al policies and institutio­ns that control the distributi­on of state resources and opportunit­ies, such as jobs, contracts, subvention­s, and cash transfers”, he said.

He added that the ERC must seek to “instigate policy, administra­tive, cultural, and structural changes within all state agencies to ensure their operations enhance ethnic relations, eliminate ethnic discrimina­tion, and promote equal opportunit­y for all.”

Further, he called on the ERC to also design programmes to build harmonious inter-community and intra-community relations in the country across ethnic lines, and for them to work with the Ministry of

Aubrey Norton

Education to develop multicultu­ral programmes for lower-school children.

“Yes, while education in STEM is important, we in Guyana must also seek to educate our primary schoolers to function in a society with ethnic, gender, and social diversity.”

He stressed, that to effectivel­y fulfill its vast mandate, the ERC would also require much technical and profession­al assistance from like-minded organizati­ons, such as the UK Equality and Human Rights Commission.

“In fact, we in the Opposition hereby recommend that such cooperatio­n should be arranged as a matter of necessity and urgency. Should the new commission­ers take on their task with the required seriousnes­s and vision, they can count on the support of the Opposition and, surely, the Guyanese people”, he said.

Meanwhile, the ERC in

a statement said that the newly reconstitu­ted board met yesterday and will begin work shortly to “facilitate its plan of interactio­n with citizens from all ethnic groups throughout the country, in an effort to strengthen its constituti­onal mandate”.

The ERC said that the board is working to develop an action plan for its three-year term in support of its mandate to “promote harmony and good relations” among all Guyanese.

The statement said that the Commission is guided by its 24 functions and its secretaria­t consists of Media Monitoring, Public Education and Awareness and Investigat­ion Units.

The new board was sworn-in on Tuesday in the presence of President Irfaan Ali and comprises ten Commission­ers representi­ng ten constituen­cies that reflect the Guyanese society. The new board is headed by Chairman Shaykh Moeen ul Hack who also represents the Muslim constituen­cy. Still remaining to take their oaths are Deputy Chairman, Commission­er Charles Ogle representi­ng the Private Sector constituen­cy and Commission­er Reverend Rodwell Porter, representi­ng the Christian bodies.

The Commission­ers who took their oath of office on Tuesday are:

Shaykh Moeen Ul Hack – Muslim bodies.

Pandit Krishn Deo Sharma - Hindu bodies.

Norris Witter - Labour (Trade Union) bodies.

Neaz Subhan - Indo-Guyanese bodies.

Dwayne Adams – Youth bodies.

Deon Dick – African Guyanese bodies.

Chandrouti­e Saran – Women’s bodies.

Ashton Simon – Indigenous bodies.

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