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…body issued several statements, condemned race-baiting during period
President Irfaan Ali on Thursday chided the Ethnic Relations Commission (ERC) for what he believes to be its failure to speak up on matters related to the General and Regional Elections impasse.
“The question first of all has to be understood in context… I think that the Government has made it very clear that one of the pressing issues we faced over the last five months was that of an elections, when democracy was under threat. Every single stakeholder in Guyana agrees that democracy was under threat, but ERC did not issue a single statement, the ERC went hiding,” Ali said as reporters questioned Government’s non-participation in the ERC event. The ERC issued a number of statements during the period, many urging citizens to tempter their rhetoric and also urged peaceful resolution of the elections crisis.
The President’s statement is inaccurate as the ERC on a number of occasions called on all stakeholders to act responsibly. On July 5, 2020, the ERC in a statement said, “The Ethnic Relations Commission (ERC), once again, wishes to lend its voice to the call for peace and responsible behavior by all as the nation awaits the final declaration of the March 02, 2020, General and Regional Elections.”
The statement continued:
“There is no doubt that the historically long period it has taken for the declaration to be made has exacerbated tensions and discontent while unfortunately fostering ethnic strife, especially on social media platforms. There is also no doubt that public utterances, including the building of expectations by some officials and their political subjects, have and continue to contribute to the heightening of tensions and a further widening of unwanted division among our people.
This is not only extremely worrying due to the potential danger it poses as our electoral history so regrettably reminds, but woefully unhelpful to the daunting and crucial task of forging harmony so vital at this juncture. The Commission therefore reiterates the need for all Leaders and stakeholder groups to act in a much needed responsible manner and to ensure those, whom they influence, do likewise. At the same time, it commends those who have and continue to act responsibly.”
The President said too that the Commission’s National Conversation on Ethnic Relations lacked consultation relative to the presenters while adding that no invitation was extended to Minister of Parliamentary Affairs and Governance, Gail Teixeira.
The ERC however invited President Ali and Opposition Leader Joseph Harmon. Harmon accepted the invitation and participated.
“How did you arrive at the names? …The same questions the Guyanese people are asking, how did they determine who made the presentation? How did they come up with the theme? You can’t just pop up a name. There has to be some sort of consultation, some sort of dialogue… I am not shy about speaking about these matters,” Ali stated.
The ERC’s first National Conversation on improving ethnic relations in Guyana was held on December 14 and 15, 2020 and was a collaboration among the Commission, University of Guyana (UG), and the Office of the UN Resident Coordinator.