As Guyana enters the fourth month of electoral impasse, the Ethnic Relations Commission (ERC) has reiterated calls for peace and responsible behaviour by everyone as the nation awaits the final declaration of the March 2, 2020 General and Regional Elections.
In a statement on Sunday, the Commission said, “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.”
The ERC further posited that there is 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 Guyanese.
“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 missive stated.
Meanwhile, the Commission has disclosed that it will officially write to the leaders of all political parties, urging them and their constituents to work towards de-escalating tensions and adherence to law and order.
“The desire for peace and good relations will take genuine and collective efforts by stakeholder groups and individuals. These efforts would also include acceptance of the elections results when they are declared by the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM),” the ERC stressed.
According to the body, the agreement by caretaker President David Granger and Leader of the Opposition, Dr Bharrat Jagdeo, for a National Recount of ballots with the participation of the Caribbean Community (Caricom), further demonstrates that paths can be found to help resolve our political gridlock.
“The Commission, having been birthed out of political discord, values and commend the efforts of all stakeholders who have and continue to work tirelessly in the interest of safeguarding peace and democracy in Guyana. Let us, therefore, work together in the best interest of our nation, for there can be no option to peace and unity which ultimately reside in our hands. With all hands-on board let us promote harmony and good relations,” the ERC stated.
This plea for peace to prevail by the Commission comes days after the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) lodged a complaint against APNU/AFC’s Prime Ministerial Candidate Khemraj Ramjattan over racially incendiary remarks he recently made during a live television programme broadcast in Trinidad and Tobago.
The complaint was filed on Thursday by PPP/C Executive, Anil Nandlall, who said that during the “Morning Edition” programme which was broadcast on CCN TV6 in the twin-island republic earlier that day, Ramjattan alleged that there was a political advertisement published in Guyana that states Afro-Guyanese “can’t run oil money, you have to have East Indians doing that”.
Nandlall complained to the ERC that these words were intended to and are capable of inciting “racial hostilities” amongst the people of Guyana, particularly between Indo and Afro Guyanese.
He noted that this may constitute an offence under the Racial Hostility Act, Chapter 23:01, Laws of Guyana, and are not protected by Article 146 of the Constitution of Guyana which guarantees freedom of expression and free speech, excepting, inter alia, “expressions, in whatever form, capable of exciting hostility against any person or class of persons”.
To this end, Nandlall requested the Commission to launch an investigation into this matter and take the necessary and appropriate actions against Ramjattan immediately.