‘Diversity is an asset we must cherish, value’
President, Dr. Irfaan Ali
President, Dr. Irfaan Ali

–President Ali says, urges newly sworn-in ERC Commissioners to rise above sectarian interests, work for the common good of Guyana

PRESIDENT, Dr. Irfaan Ali has underscored that diversity is an asset Guyanese must value and cherish, and reiterated his government’s zero-tolerance to any attempts to instigate racial animosity and racial violence within the country.

The Head of State reaffirmed the government’s position as he swore in members of the Ethnic Relations Commission (ERC) on Tuesday, during a ceremony at the Office of the President.

A total of 10 persons were identified to serve as Commissioners, with eight of them being present at the ceremony to take their oath before President Ali.

The approved persons who will serve on the Commission are from the religious bodies, Reverend Rodwell Alphonso Porter representing the Christian faith, Pandit Krishna Deo Sharma representing the Hindu faith, and Shaik Moen Hack representing the Muslim faith; from the cultural and ethnic bodies, there is President of the National Amerindian Development Foundation (NADF), Ashton Simon representing Amerindians; Deon Dick representing Afro-Guyanese, and Neaz Subhan representing Indo-Guyanese; from civil society, trade unionist Norris Witter will represent the labour movement; former Chief Labour Officer (CLO), Charles Ogle, will represent the private sector; City Councillor, Dwayne Adams will represent the youth body, while the women’s bodies will be represented by Chandroutie Saran.

Subhan, Simon, and Witter are returning members to the Commission, having served on the body from 2018.

The ERC is a constitutional body established by Constitution (Amendment) (No.2) Act No.11 of 2000, which amends Article 212 D of the Constitution to provide for the establishment of the Commission.

The individuals were appointed in accordance with Article 212A and 212B of the Constitution of Guyana, which states that there shall be a ERC comprising no less than five nor more than 15 members nominated by entities utilising a consensual mechanisms determined by the National Assembly.

The members are appointed effective from March 21, 2023, and will serve for a period of three years and are eligible for reappointment.

Resolution No. 36 of 2022 approved the list of entities to be consulted for nominations to the ERC. An open nomination and consultative process with the approved entities was conducted and persons from the stated categories were approved as members of the ERC established under the Constitution.

In brief remarks during the ceremony, the President challenged the Commissioners to insulate themselves from the divisions which it seeks to overcome in society,
“The work of the Commission is nonpartisan, it must rise above sectarian interests and work for the common good of our society and in doing so it’s worth will attract greater public confidence.

“No matter the colour of one’s skin, we are all part of this common human family and each of us is equal in dignity and rights. I congratulate the members of the ethnic relations Commission who have just taken their oath of service,” Dr. Ali said.

The Commission’s functions include promoting harmony and good relations between persons of different ethnic groups; discouraging and prohibiting persons, institutions, political parties, and associations from indulging in, advocating for, or promoting discrimination on the grounds of ethnicity; investigating any issues, affecting ethnic relations, and promoting the elimination of all forms of ethnic discrimination.

The appointment of the ERC Commissioners came on the same day that the world celebrated International Day for Elimination of Racial Discrimination (IDERD).

This year’s observance is of special significance as it falls during the 75th anniversary of the United Nations Universal Declaration for Human Rights and the 60th anniversary of the United Nations Declaration on the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination.

“It is fitting that today’s reconstituting of the Ethnic Relations Commission is taking place on International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. The Commission can play a pivotal role in identifying and addressing ethnic discrimination and making recommendations for eliminating racial discord in our society,” the President said.

President Dr. Ali related his government’s commitment to promote harmonious relations rooted in respect for human rights, the multicultural character of society and equal dignity for all.

He condemned all attempts that provoke any racial conflict in society, noting that the government will ensure that those guilty are subject to the sanctions imposed by law.

“My government remains committed to the process of eliminating all forms of racial discrimination. We work daily, long and hard, through our One Guyana initiative to promote equality, compassion opportunities and stability for advancement of all Guyanese,” the President said.

He added: “I continue to urge all Guyanese to refute every tongue that utters threats and instigates hatred; in so doing we will ensure that no weapon aimed at dividing our people and pitting any segment against another shall prosper.”

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