Juan Edhill has used the ERC in violation of our Constitution
The violation of the Constitution by Juan Edghill, John Willems, Carvil Duncan, Bharrat Jagdeo and the PPP, with regards to the Ethnic Relations Commission’s (ERC) functionality, post August 2007, must be brought to an end. The issue before this nation is the ERC, as presently constituted, is not in conformity with the Constitution and Laws and is spending scarce tax payers’ money to carry out un-constitutional activities, and it must be corrected forthwith. The workers-the general ERC staff- must not be used as political weapons, sacrificial lambs and pawns in the process of correcting the problem or maintaining the problem. Labour has an abiding interest in full employment because we see work as the principal mean of taking people out of poverty. For us work must satisfy the ILO Core Labour Standards, local laws and agreed principles.
The ERC has a very crucial role to play in this society, to among other things, create the environment where we can “celebrate our cultural and racial diversity and strengthen our unity by eliminating any and every
form of discrimination” according to the Preamble of the Guyana Constitution. This is a diverse nation forged together and sustained for centuries through conflicts, ‘divide and rule’ ideology, hatred, mistrust and lack of understanding of the cultural uniqueness of all groups. For centuries, and evident unto today, our diversity continues to face threats of being a unifier, as some within our midst prefer making diversity a wedge, which underpins most of the conflicts we witness.
Correcting these deficiencies require us talking through our differences, making known our concerns and having the avenue to channel same in a constructive manner. This is what the ERC is there for and if it functions consistent with its mandate it can aide in realising the society we all aspire to- that is peaceful co-existence and equitable development. It is unfortunate this institution was hijacked but we cannot throw out the baby and the bath water. The ERC must be taken from the hands of lawlessness, brought back under the Law, and given a chance to work.
Article 212B (1) of the Constitution expressly states:-
“The Ethnic Relations Commission shall consist of- (a) not less than five nor more than fifteen members nominated by entities, by a consensual mechanism determined by the National Assembly, including entities, representatives of religious bodies, the labour
movement, the private business sector, youth and women, after the entities are determined by the votes of votes of not less than two-thirds of all elected members of the National Assembly”
Since September 2007 the ERC has been staffed with three, now two commissioners, which is in breached of the Constitution. This is a violation that must be condemned by all law abiding citizen and our voice added to having the situation corrected. Dr. Roger Luncheon is being untruthful in his claim that “President [Jagdeo] had summoned a meeting with the stakeholders, including the commissioners and those who had put forward the names of the commissioners to serve in the first place, to ensure that there was general agreement for them to continue in office in the interim.” The GTUC is a stakeholder on the ERC and the organisation was never consulted by Jagdeo, Luncheon or anyone in the government. Were we consulted we would have informed the government that the power to establish or ensure the continuity of the Commission does not rest with the President but with the National Assembly and it must be respected. Duncan, who was nominated as the alternate to Andrew Garnett was advised by the GTUC that it will not continue to participate in the ERC when its life ended in August 2007. Garnett resigned and Duncan chose to continue.
What the PPP got correct is Edghill’s statement that getting the ERC
properly constituted is not left to dialogue or tripartite talks among the
political parties, since the ERC is a constitutional body, where Parliament names the entities and those entities in turn make the nominations to the ERC. This proverbial scales have now dropped from his eyes after sitting on the ERC since September 2007, fully aware that his presence was in violation of Article 212B (1) of the Constitution which he, Jagdeo, Willems, Duncan and the PPP supported. He ought to be grateful Christians are living in the era of the mercies of God, through his Son, Jesus Christ; because were it the Moses’ era, he, as a proclaimed man of the cloth would have been struck down. He needs, however, not to take God’s mercy for granted.
The GTUC takes note that David Granger, Leader of the Opposition, in another section of the media, has reportedly said the APNU would be willing to approve cash for the commission if he and President Donald Ramotar could meet and agree to new commissioners, which Edghill at his Tuesday press conference debunked. Edghill is today a minister of government because he has demonstrated his subservience and would not have made this statement without their approval. It is hoped Granger and the entire opposition has taken note. Labour’s view is already known on the tripartite talks. We believe in making full use of the Parliament to deliberate and arrive at solutions on the people’s business.
The Parliament must move to put measures in place to bring the ERC in conformity with the Constitution. The parliament, this nation’s highest decision making forum, as currently constituted allows for tripartite engagements- sitting in the House are the PPP, AFC and APNU with their various committees- and it must be given a chance to work. This matter of the ERC being properly constituted has to be resolved in parliament according to the Constitution. The opposition must use its majority and give leadership to the society by attending to this matter in the House. Let the Members of Parliament demonstrate to this nation their commitment or lack of commitment to the Constitution and the ERC operating consistent with same. The nation must be given a chance to see who is serious and who is using the people for their self serving political agenda.
The nation understands the opposition’s position on voting $1.00 for the ERC as its effort to ensure good governance. The $1.00 from all intent and purpose is not a denial of the ERC’s right to carry out its constitutional mandate. As such the opposition’s just demand to have the ERC constituted accordingly must be heeded. And the government MPs must work with the opposition to ensure the Constitution is upheld. The failure to do so will confirm that this issue is not about: a) upholding the Constitution; b) ensuring the workers are paid and c)
ensuring good governance. The GTUC will hold the government accountable for putting the ERC’s workers on the breadline and playing politics with their economic wellbeing, for this matter should have been resolved 5 years ago.
Willems, Edghill and Duncan have drawn income and travelling to the tune of millions of dollars since September 2007 knowing full well that their actions are in breach of the Constitution and laws. The Bishop needs to set an example for this society by giving moral leadership and returning the taxpayers’ money. Public officials must be held accountable for their conduct. The citizens cannot be expected to obey the laws when public officials are breaking the laws at their whims and fancy. These men have broken the law for five years and they must be held to account. Their lawless behaviour is giving credence to the behaviours of the drug lords, wife/woman abusers, the robbers and every law breaker.
The Opposition is called upon to give leadership in restoring this country to one of law and order.
Edghill has issued a challenged to the public to “show evidence that he was less than independent.” The GTUC will start the ball rolling by reminding him of the 2004 compliant brought before the ERC by the
PPP fronted, Indian Arrival Committee (IAC). This complaint said, Dr. Kean Gibson’s book, The Cycle of Racial Oppression, “is a dangerous piece of literature that is peddling and spreading racial hatred in Guyana between its principal ethnic groups, and is constructed to provide a basis for the unleashing of race war in Guyana.” As such the IAC wanted the ERC to conduct a public inquiry into the publication, with a view to condemning “race hate propaganda and removing this publication from circulation.”
Though the ERC was unable to establish The Cycle of Racial Oppression was “peddling and spreading racial hatred in Guyana between its principal ethnic groups, and is constructed to provide a basis for the unleashing of race war in Guyana,” some members of the commission, including Edghill, voted to inflict a penalty by requesting that the book be taken off the shelves. This act confirms that Edghill was not an independent commissioner, which became a characteristic that marked his stewardship.
Both the government and opposition must deal with this issue and find solutions.
Life in this society has become perilous. Everything citizens have to participate in or acquire the government has its hands in and wants to
make it difficult for some in pursuant of their obsession for dominance and greed. This nation is witnessing millions of dollars in state funds being used to run around the country maligning persons and misrepresenting the budget cuts, money Labour is sure were not budgeted for. Rather than do this the PPP needs to work at fixing the constitutional violations to put this country back on track. It is time to get serious and attend to the people’s business. The public is fed-up with the foolishness. President Donald Ramotar must stand up and be counted and demonstrate that he is his own man by giving leadership to the PPP and this nation in having this constitutional infraction resolved forthwith.