“Work for the common good of society” – Pres Ali tells newly sworn-in ERC Commissioners

…says diversity is an asset

On the occasion of International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, eight of the 10-member Ethnic Relations Commission (ERC) were on Tuesday sworn in to serve the constitutional body by President Dr Irfaan Ali.

Representative of the cultural and ethnic organisations, Ashton Simon receiving his instrument from President Irfaan Ali

There, they were charged to work with honesty and fairness for the common good of society.
Addressing the Commissioners of the reconstituted ERC at the Office of the President, the Head of State acknowledged that the body is tasked with playing a pivotal role in identifying and addressing racial discrimination; and making recommendations to eliminate this discord in society.
In a world where discrimination has led to a domino effect of negative issues, he reminded that diversity is an asset.
“Racial, religious, and cultural divisions, if allowed to become malignant, will eat away at the very fabric of our society, disrupting human and social relations, retarding national development, and corroding national values. In other parts of the world, we have seen the deaths, injuries, and carnage resulting from such conflicts. Diversity is an asset we must value and cherish. Greater inclusion and equality are goals to which we must continuously aspire… The work of the Commission is non-partisan. It must rise above sectarian interests and work for the common good of our society,” Ali stressed.

Religious representative Shaikh Moeen Ul-Hack taking the oath of office before President Ali

Article 212 (A) and 212B (1A) of the Constitution of Guyana provides for the creation of an Ethnic Relations Commission and further prescribes that it should consist of not less than five nor more than 15 members nominated by entities utilising a mechanism determined by the National Assembly.
Religious representatives will be Pandit Krishna Sharma and Shaikh Moeen Ul-Hack. Reverend Rodwell Porter will be sworn in at a later date.
Norris Witter for labour movement bodies, Dwayne Adams for youth bodies, and Chandrowtie Sarran for women bodies were admitted to the Commission. Charles Ogle, representing private sector bodies, is the second person who will be sworn in later.
Joining the ERC to represent cultural and ethnic organisations are Ashton Simon, Deon Dick and Neaz Subhan. Their appointment takes effect from March 21, 2023.
President Ali said his Government remains committed to eliminating all forms of racial discrimination and the One Guyana initiative is at the forefront of this movement. Moreover, attempts to provoke racial conflicts are completely condemned. He charged Guyanese to refute all actions to incite racial hostility and discrimination.
The Guyanese leader asserted, “We work daily, long and hard, through our One Guyana initiative to promote quality, compassion, opportunities, and stability for the advancement of all Guyanese. We take seriously, any attempts to instigate racial animosity and racial violence within our country. We severely condemn attempts that provoke racial conflicts in our society and ensure that those guilty are subject to the sanctions imposed by law.”
He added, “I urge all Guyanese to reject all racially-laced rhetoric or to be misled by those who wish to use race and ethnicity to stoke divisions and hatred in our society. My Government will continue under the One Guyana agenda to promote harmonious relations within our society.”
Under Article 212D of the Constitution of the Co-operative Republic of Guyana, the ERC has 24 functions – one of which is a mandate to investigate complaints from citizens across the country where acts of alleged ethnic discrimination have been committed. Also, the Commission is mandated to enforce the Racial Hostility Act and the Representation of the People (Amendment) Act.
In Budget 2023, the Ethnic Relations Commission as a constitutional agency was allocated $137.3 million to execute its duties.