‘Unconstitutional’ ERC should not adjudicate in any media matter – PNCR

The PNCR says that the Ethnic Relations Commission (ERC) remains an unconstitutional body and should not be made to adjudicate on any matter related to the media and charges of racial hostility.

During a press conference on Friday at Congress Place, MP Amna Ally said that the government should be ashamed to refer any matter in connection with the media to the ERC. She was referring to the recent call by the Office of the President for the body to probe the Stabroek News and Kaieteur News for publishing items which it alleged promote racial hostility.

“The recent report that the Office of the President has referred certain publications, appearing in the private media, to the ERC for possible breaches of the law relating to promoting racial hostility is ludicrous given the conduct of the state media recently, particularly over the past  weeks”, Ally said.

According to her, the state media has been abusing their “privileged positions for the dissemination of misinformation and libelous publications.”

Ally also pointed to several acts by the administration, including its monopoly over the radio and its refusal to establish a National Broadcast Authority, which indicate that it wants “political control of the media as well as political control of the adjudication of media matters. “

According to Ally, the first priority of the Office of the President should have been to ensure that the commission satisfies the constitutional requirement that it is currently in violation of.

The life of the body was extended by President Bharrat Jagdeo without the constitutional provisions being followed. She said too that “any purported pronouncement by this body affecting the liberty and or rights of Guyanese, will therefore, be vigorously opposed by the PNCR in the Courts of Law in Guyana”.

“The PNCR does not, and will never condone the promotion of racial hostility, whether by the media or by any other means,” she said adding that there should be a clear distinction between the promotion of racial hostility and the exposure of racial discrimination.

Ally said that while Chairman of the ERC Juan Edghill “had demonstrated an interesting activism in responding to the directions of Luncheon”, the same activism was not seen in dealing with inflammatory statements by President  Jagdeo at Babu John during the death anniversary celebrations several years ago for former President Cheddi Jagan. She pointed too to the failure of the ERC to act on the complaint made by the Guyana Bauxite and General Workers Union (GB&GWU) concerning the behaviour of the Bauxite Company of Guyana Inc. (BCGI).

“It is this kind of partisan behaviour that has ensured that the noble objectives of the Constitutional Reform Commission are aborted. The PPP is put on notice….that the PNCR will not condone any further attempts to muzzle and control the media”, Ally said.

Asked about the possible closure of the Guyana Elections Commission’s Media Monitoring Unit by the administration, PNCR Leader Robert Corbin said that he has not been formally notified about this but that he has learnt from reliable sources that this is likely to occur.

The PNCR Leader said that he understands that the unit is likely to be closed by “default”  since the government is reluctant to agree to the transitional arrangements which would  most likely result in it having to fund the unit.

He noted that this unit was heavily funded by the international community in their efforts to support the democratic process during the elections period.  He said that afterwards it was felt that it was necessary for GECOM to continue this unit. “I do not think that the government of Guyana should consider it the obligation of the international community to continue to maintain it and really what should have been happening   was that there should have been local budgetary provisions for this unit to continue,” Corbin said.

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