ERC Chairman’s letter to MP Hughes sparks ire of two commissioners

Ethnic Relations Commissioners Neaz Subhan and Roshan Khan say they are disassociating themselves from a letter sent from ERC Chairman John Smith to AFC Member of Parliament Cathy Hughes. The Commissioners in a statement on Wednesday said that the position adapted by the Commission in the said letter, “constitutes an abysmal abdication” of the commission’s mandate.

The issue has its genesis in an alleged social media post. The post which was attributed to the sitting MP and former minister of government was the subject of an investigation by the ERC which also announced that it was forwarding information to the Cyber Crime Unit of the Guyana Police Force. Hughes has publicly distanced herself from the post as she argued that it looks like clear manipulation using her name aimed at tarnishing her reputation.

Smith’s letter which is dated 28, 2021 tells Hughes that the Commission recognises that a through investigation is imperative to ascertain the source and the identity of the persons connected to the comment made, “as such, the Commission will be forwarding its findings to the Cyber Crime unit,” the missive reads.

Chairman Smith also tells Hughes that the Commission wishes to apologize for any “public ridicule” made against her and the Commission is prepared to render further assistance deems necessary in assisting the investigations.

Commissioners Subhan and Khan are claiming that the letter  “did not address the authenticity of the post” and  “did not benefit from our input.”

They are arguing that “the “raison d’etre” of the Ethnic Relations Commission (ERC) is to investigate comments that can lead to or likely to or shall excite racial and ethnic hostility between and among Guyanese,” as they say that it remains befuddling that the Commission takes the position that the comment made in the alleged post, is beyond its scope to pronounce upon.

The duo said that the situation is further compounded by ERC’s decision to recommend the said matter for investigation elsewhere thereby recognizing that the matter is far from being completed while also claiming the body has no jurisdiction over the matter.

Two duo feels too that the Commission did not have to apologise to Hughes since “there wasn’t a need for the Commission to apologize especially since the Commission did not accuse of an offence.”