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ERC fully investigated 170 of 225 complaints in 2019-2020

The Ethnic Relations Commission (ERC) completed investigations into 170 complaints relating to racial hostility and racial incitement during 2019 and 2020. According to a statement from the ERC, 225 complaints were received but some are still pending.

For the first time, the Commission in a statement, said it commenced legal action in 2020 against alleged violators under the Racial Hostility and Representation of the People Acts to discourage the alarming trend of racial incitement, especially on social media.

The 2019-2020 period covers the March-August 2020 General and Regional Elections. One of those probes relate to the hiring practices at the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) which stemmed from a report from the then Opposition People’s Progressive Party/ Civic (PPP/C).

A report was compiled and handed over to the political party in March 2019. However, the ERC said without subpoena powers, it was unable to summon top officials of GECOM and thoroughly investigate all aspects of the complaint.

In a statement announcing the end of the current board’s tenure chaired by Reverend Dr. John Oswald Smith, the ERC bragged about being able to monitor the run-up to the 2018 Local Government and March 2020 General Elections.

It also managed to convince the eleven political parties which contested the 2020 elections to sign its “Code of Conduct” to commit to clean campaigning after which its Elections Monitors were assigned to attend campaign meetings.

It also highlighted its ‘Harmony Campaigns,’ which was intended to solicit inputs from Guyanese at home and the diaspora on ethnic relations in Guyana, and its efforts to engage civil society.

The outgoing board further disclosed that during its tenure, it was able to increase staff from 14 to 33 to retool and upgrade technical equipment and resources required to execute the work of the Commission.

The ERC was reactivated in 2018 after seven years of dormancy with Reverend Smith as Chairman, Major-General (ret’d) Norman Mclean as Deputy Chairman.

Other Commissioners who took the oath of office were Barrington Braithwaite, Ruth Howard, Hajji Dr. Roshan Khan, Pandit Deodat Persaud, Ashton Simon, Rajkumarie Singh, Neaz Subhan and Norris Whitter.