𝐄𝐑𝐂 𝐏𝐫𝐞𝐬𝐬 𝐂𝐨𝐧𝐟𝐞𝐫𝐞𝐧𝐜𝐞- 𝐎𝐧𝐞-𝐘𝐞𝐚𝐫 𝐀𝐧𝐧𝐢𝐯𝐞𝐫𝐬𝐚𝐫𝐲

The March 21st marks one year since the current life of the Commission took office for the period 2023-2026. A Press Conference was held yesterday, March 20th, 2023 at Cara Lodge where Mr. Shaikh Moeenul Hack, Chairman of the Ethnic Relations Commission provided a recap of the achievements of the ERC for the period. Outlined below is the statement he delivered to mark this significant occasion.
Ladies and gentlemen, esteemed members of the press, it is with great pleasure and pride that we are before you today as Commissioners of the Ethnic Relations Commission. As Chairman, it is my honour to present the official statement on behalf of the Commission with our main goal today being an update on the work and initiatives of the Commission as it marks one year since its reconstitution in March of 2023. The life of this Commission will run from 2023 to 2026.
Immediately after being sworn in, the Commission hit the ground running, so to speak. Foremost was ensuring the filling of vacancies so that the required staff complement was in place.
In an effort to promote harmony and good relations in Guyana, the Commission has undertaken several initiatives geared towards fulfilling its 24 Functions as outlined in Article 212 D of the constitution of Guyana. It has been a fairly fruitful year, but not without challenges given the recorded high numbers of racial and religious infractions received over the past year.
In this regard, the Commission has settled most cases via softer means of dispute resolution such as mediation and reconciliation, and to a lesser extent through forwarding cases to the Police for prosecution.
The Commission in the execution of its mandate, took a multi-pronged approach to addressing ethnic relations in Guyana. ERC has executed various initiatives to bridge divides, foster dialogue, and build a more inclusive society for all Guyanese. Among those were:
𝐂𝐨𝐝𝐞 𝐨𝐟 𝐂𝐨𝐧𝐝𝐮𝐜𝐭 𝐬𝐢𝐠𝐧𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐟𝐨𝐫 𝐋𝐎𝐂𝐀𝐋 𝐆𝐎𝐕𝐄𝐑𝐍𝐌𝐄𝐍𝐓 𝐄𝐋𝐄𝐂𝐓𝐈𝐎𝐍𝐒: The ERC hosted a Code of Conduct signing for parties contesting the LGE 2023. The Code of Conduct aimed to ensure that parties agreed to promote an election period that was free from hate speech, incitement, violence, discrimination, and provocation along racial lines. The importance of the ERC having the support of all contesting parties was paramount since the Commission itself, was birthed from electoral tension.
𝐄𝐑𝐂 𝐎𝐛𝐬𝐞𝐫𝐯𝐚𝐭𝐢𝐨𝐧 𝐌𝐢𝐬𝐬𝐢𝐨𝐧:In addition, the ERC also fielded over 60 observers for LGE in Regions 3, 4, 5, 6, and 10 respectively, canvassing over 250 polling stations to ensure a free, fair, and transparent election process. The Commission recognizes that these principles of democracy are the foundation upon which unity and peaceful co-existence are developed.
𝐒𝐭𝐚𝐤𝐞𝐡𝐨𝐥𝐝𝐞𝐫 𝐄𝐧𝐠𝐚𝐠𝐞𝐦𝐞𝐧𝐭𝐬: Noteworthy among the significant milestones achieved by the Commission in the past year has been our unwavering commitment to fostering dialogue with the diverse ethnic communities across Guyana. Through strategic initiatives, including constituency meetings, stakeholder engagements, and targeted outreach programs, the Commission has created he mechanism for Guyanese from all walks of life to come together, share their experiences, and find common ground. Among those engagements were:
1) 𝐂𝐨𝐧𝐬𝐭𝐢𝐭𝐮𝐞𝐧𝐜𝐲 𝐌𝐞𝐞𝐭𝐢𝐧𝐠𝐬 𝐚𝐧𝐝 𝐑𝐞𝐠𝐢𝐨𝐧𝐚𝐥 𝐎𝐮𝐭𝐫𝐞𝐚𝐜𝐡𝐞𝐬: The Commission, over two months, convened 10 stakeholder engagements with representatives of the various constituency groupings, namely, African, Indian, Indigenous, Islamic, Hindu, Christian, Women, Youth, Private Sector, and Labor, respectively. In addition, the Commission also visited and engaged the regional officials and residents of communities in Regions 1, 2, 6, 7, 9, and 10. The Commission solicited the concerns of each demographic and gained feedback and insights into areas in which the ERC could work towards addressing them. The contributions from the various engagements were considered in the drafting of the Strategic Plan, which is being finalized.
2) 𝐏𝐨𝐥𝐢𝐭𝐢𝐜𝐚𝐥 𝐄𝐧𝐠𝐚𝐠𝐞𝐦𝐞𝐧𝐭𝐬:The Commission requested meetings with the leaders of all Parliamentary Political Parties. To date, engagements have been held with the PPP/C and the AFC. The Commission used this as an opportunity to garner the support of the leaders to assist it in the execution of its mandate. In addition, the Commission wrote to all Members of Parliament, urging them to build on the united front that was evident during the recent period of the Guyana-Venezuela border controversy and reminded them of the influence they have on their respective supporters, as leaders were encouraged to lead by example.
3) 𝐃𝐢𝐩𝐥𝐨𝐦𝐚𝐭𝐢𝐜 𝐄𝐧𝐠𝐚𝐠𝐞𝐦𝐞𝐧𝐭𝐬: The Commission met with members of the Diplomatic Corps and discussed the mandate of the ERC and possible areas of collaboration. Among those were the Ambassadors of Mexico, India, US, China, EU, the UN, and the High Commissioner of the UK. These initial conversations will be advanced in 2024 and beyond.
4) 𝐒𝐜𝐡𝐨𝐨𝐥 𝐄𝐧𝐠𝐚𝐠𝐞𝐦𝐞𝐧𝐭𝐬:The Commission has undertaken an intense campaign to tackle racism in its early stages through school engagements, by instilling in the younger generation the values of tolerance, respect, and appreciation for diverse ethnicities. Through a myriad of school outreaches, the ERC has taken its message of harmony and good relations to dozens of primary and secondary schools. Over the past year, we have reached over 8000 students from coastal schools in the first phase, and this year the model will be extended to all other regions of Guyana. These school visits have provided a crucial opportunity to engage with the next generation of leaders and change-makers, equipping them with the values, knowledge, and skills needed to create a more harmonious and cohesive society. By fostering a culture of acceptance and understanding from a young age, we ensure that diversity is celebrated and embraced.
𝐃𝐢𝐯𝐞𝐫𝐬𝐢𝐭𝐲 𝐋𝐢𝐛𝐫𝐚𝐫𝐲: The ERC has recognized the importance of education and awareness in ensuring a more informed society, one which is well aware of the unique differences of each ethnicity in Guyana. As such, the Commission engaged with all religious and cultural groups within its network to support the establishment of a public library space. With the overwhelming donations of literature from various bodies, the ERC launched its Diversity Library, which contains texts from all religious and ethnic groups in Guyana. It aims to ensure information from all diverse backgrounds is available to the public to learn, share, and develop respect, tolerance, and understanding.
𝐃𝐢𝐯𝐞𝐫𝐬𝐢𝐭𝐲, 𝐄𝐪𝐮𝐚𝐥𝐢𝐭𝐲, 𝐚𝐧𝐝 𝐈𝐧𝐜𝐥𝐮𝐬𝐢𝐨𝐧 𝐢𝐧 𝐖𝐨𝐫𝐤𝐩𝐥𝐚𝐜𝐞𝐬: Additionally, the ERC has developed partnerships with key stakeholders, such as the Public Service Ministry, to promote diversity and inclusivity within workplaces. Through targeted education and awareness workshops, the Commission engaged with representatives from numerous public sector agencies to increase awareness of the principles of diversity, equality, and inclusion in the workplace. This year the Commission plans to expand on educational campaigns in public and private workspaces aimed at further addressing discrimination and racism while also providing persons with the necessary information needed for them to file complaints and seek redress.
In its ongoing commitment to fostering dialogue and reconciliation, the Commission has taken proactive steps to address the critical issues of discrimination and prejudice within our society. Recognizing that discrimination in any form undermines the fabric of our nation and erodes the principles of equality and justice, the Commission made it a priority to confront these challenges head-on. In this regard, the ERC’s Media Monitoring Unit plays a vital role in scrutinizing information communicated through mass media via Social Media, Television, Radio, and Newspapers. The Unit monitors content for infractions of the Racial Hostility Act (1964) and the Representation of the People Act respectively. The detected infractions are brought to the attention of the ERC. There were 105 instances of ethnically/racially offensive comments over the past year. These instances have been of varying magnitudes, many of which warranted warnings, while others of a more serious nature are forwarded to the Investigative Unit for future action.
For the past year, the ERC has acidulously pursued its mission to address and investigate ethnic and racial discrimination complaints, that fall within the purview of the Racial Hostility Act and the Prevention of Discrimination Act. With eighty (80) complaints received, the Commission’s Investigative Unit has been instrumental in navigating these complex issues, achieving varying degrees of resolution: eleven (11) complaints were withdrawn, indicating some disputes could be settled informally; seven investigations concluded, and three (3) cases closed; meanwhile, twenty-three (23) cases remain actively investigated. Additionally, five (5) cases required police intervention, and another Ten (10) were directed to external agencies, ensuring a comprehensive approach to each complaint. Twenty-six (26) cases are awaiting investigation, with two (2) resolved through conciliation.
Emphasizing conciliation and mediation has allowed for amicable solutions in instances where both parties are cooperative, demonstrating the effectiveness of these dispute-resolution mechanisms. However, the process is not without challenges. For example, complainants may not provide the basic details required for a proper investigation to commence, undermining the work of the department.
In response to severe instances that threaten societal harmony based on ethnic or racial discord, the Commission takes decisive actions by referring such matters to the Police or other relevant agencies. The ERC reaffirms its commitment to addressing violations and preserving peace.
The Investigative Unit’s unwavering commitment to resolving discrimination issues has been clear throughout the year. Through meticulous investigations, resolution facilitation, and strategic collaborations, the Commission is dedicated to promoting an equitable society where every individual’s rights are safeguarded, highlighting our ongoing commitment to justice and the dynamic nature of our work in fostering an inclusive community.
In addition to our efforts in fostering dialogue and reconciliation, the ERC has been deeply committed to promoting cultural exchanges and understanding throughout Guyana. We firmly believe that celebrating our diversity is essential to building a more united society. To this end, the Commission has actively participated in various cultural forums, exhibitions, and events to highlight the invaluable contributions of each ethnic group in Guyana.
The Commission is proud to have been part of esteemed cultural gatherings such as:
• UN’s Permanent Forum for People of African Descent – New York, May 30, 2023
• National Toshaos’ Conference 2023 – Arthur Chung Convention Centre, August 28th-31st
• Indigenous Village 2023 – National Exhibition Site, Sophia, September 1st – 5th
• Agri-Expo 2023 – Arthur Chung Convention Centre, October 20th- 22nd
• Diwali Jalsa (Gathering) – Region 6 Corriverton Recreational Park, Berbice, Nov 7th- 11th.
• GuyExpo 2023 – National Exhibition Center, Sophia, November 16th to 19th
• The inaugural Ramadan Village, MYO Ground, March 11, 2024- ongoing
These events have provided invaluable opportunities to celebrate and honor the diverse traditions, customs, and histories that make up the vibrant mosaic of Guyanese culture. By participating in these cultural exhibitions and events that reach over 6000 Guyanese, spreading awareness of the work of the Commission and educating the public on principles of respect, harmony, tolerance, and unity, across all ethnicities. Through meaningful engagement and interaction, we are forging bonds that transcend ethnic boundaries, paving the way for a more united and harmonious Guyana.
I have not gone into the intricate details of all that was accomplished by the ERC for the year, but I encourage you to have a look at our Newsletter, which we are launching here today. You will find additional details for activities from the period of March 2023 to March 2024.
As we look ahead to the future, the Commission remains committed to its mission of promoting harmony and good relations among all in Guyana. We recognize that sustained progress requires ongoing engagement and collaboration, and we are fully committed to facilitating further opportunities for dialogue, interaction, and exchange. There is still much work to be done, but we are confident that by working together, we can overcome any challenge and realize our vision of a united and prosperous nation.
In closing, I would like to express my sincere gratitude to our partners, stakeholders, and the general public, for their unwavering dedication and support over the past year. Together, we have made significant progress, and we are eager to continue our work in the months and years ahead, with your continued support.
Thank you.

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