It is the GB&GWU which has stalled progress on its complaint to the ERC

Dear Editor,

It would appear that the new model that has been agreed upon among forces acting in concert is to up the ante and apply pressure by ridiculing, making false statements, spurious allegation and inflammatory statements about the ERC and its Chairman in particular. Hence, the need for this response.

Stabroek News Monday July 12, 2010 page 22 carried an article captioned “Unconstitutional’ ERC should not adjudicate in any media matter – PNCR’. Member of Parliament Amna Ally is reported to have been the spokesperson for the PNCR on this matter. While offering a politically baked and narrow self-serving view, she went on to make some statements that expose the indecency and infantile behaviour of those she represents when she states “While Chairman of the ERC Juan Edghill had demonstrated an interesting activism in responding to the directions of (Dr Roger) Luncheon, the same activism was not seen in dealing with inflammatory statements by President (Bharrat) Jagdeo at Babu John during the death anniversary celebrations several years ago for former President Cheddi Jagan.”

According to the said article, “She pointed 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.”

The Commission therefore demands that Ms. Ally and the PNCR immediately withdraw this statement making a public apology or failing to do so they must make public any evidence they have to substantiate the claim that “Bishop Juan Edghill is subject to the direction of Luncheon.”

The ERC believes that this statement by MP Ally purportedly representing the PNCR should receive the strongest condemnation from every section of the society. If Ms. Ally and the PNCR believe that the Chairman of the ERC is subject to the direction of Luncheon, they should make this information available to the public, not using innuendoes and capricious statements and hiding behind subtle suggestions.

The fact of the matter is that the PNCR must admit even its best efforts of manipulation, intimidation and condemnation of the ERC and its Chair in particular have been unsuccessful and its covert and overt attempts to compromise the integrity and independence of the Commission have been rebuffed.

The Commission wishes to make known that the constant repeating of a lie by the PNCR will not make a lie the truth. Ms. Ally and the PNCR must be made to be ashamed of this gutter rated, unfounded and unsubstantiated attack on the Commission.

The ERC has checked its records. There is no complaint from the PNCR or any other Stakeholder as it relates to any inflammatory statement made by President Jagdeo at Babu John during the death anniversary celebrations of former President Cheddi Jagan.

The Guyana Bauxite and General Workers Union

On Monday January 4, 2010 via e-mail, a complaint was sent to Bishop Juan Edghill, Chairman of the ERC by one Carlton Sinclair.

The purpose of the e-mail was to bring to the attention of the Commission for immediate redress, a claim that the predominant African Bauxite workers of Aroaima and Kwakwani employed by the Bauxite Company of Guyana Incorporated, a company owned by the United Company (RUSAL) and the Government of Guyana were affected by a matter where race, ethnicity and political affiliation appeared to be at the centre of decision making which affected the operations of the union and the workers.

A reply dated January 7, 2010 acknowledging receipt of the complaint was dispatched to Mr. Carlton Sinclair, President of the Aroaima/Kwakwani branch and an official complaint form was completed by the senior investigative officer of the ERC.

A letter dated January 7, 2010 was sent to Dr. Roger Luncheon, Head of the Presidential Secretariat informing of the complaint and forwarding a copy of the said complaint for his prompt response.

A letter dated January 7, 2010 was sent to Mr. Manzoor Nadir, Minister of Labour informing of the complaint and forwarding a copy of the said complaint for his prompt response.

A letter dated January 7, 2010 was sent to Mr. Yoganand Persaud, Chief Labour Officer informing of the complaint and asking for a prompt response.

A letter dated January 7, 2010 was sent to Mr. Sergey Kostyuk, General Manager RUSAL informing him of the existence of the Ethnic Relations Commission, its mandate and forwarding to him an outline of its functions.

The letter further informed Mr. Kostyuk of the complaint submitted to the ERC against BCGI and forwarding a copy of the said complaint for his perusal and comments. In this letter, a formal request was made for a preliminary meeting with official representatives of RUSAL, the Chairman of the ERC at the Office of RUSAL between the hours of 15:00 hrs and 17:00 hrs on Monday January 11, 2010.

On January 8, 2010 by prior telephone communication, a meeting was arranged between the ERC and officials of the Guyana Bauxite and General Workers Union. This meeting took place at Watooka House in Linden.

It was on that premise that the Chairman, Commissioners and Investigative staff of the ERC met with Mr. Sinclair President of Aroaima/Kwakwani branch – the complainant, Mr. Sampson, President and Mr. Gonzalves, General Secretary (ag) of the Guyana Bauxite and General Workers Union.

The distinguished gentlemen made their claim and the ERC made it very clear that that was a preliminary meeting looking to see if there was any “merit” for a “public inquiry” and to find a way forward in dealing with this matter.

On Friday January 8, 2010, the ERC made it clear that:

1. If the union had authorized Mr. Sinclair to make such a complaint, the Union should write the ERC stating that Mr. Sinclair is authorized to make the complaint on behalf of the workers and the union since he was neither the President nor General Secretary of the union.

2. The union was to make available persons who they indicated were witnesses or persons who would have been fired and were affected by the actions of the BCGI to ERC Investigators to give statements.

3. The ERC will be engaging the Bauxite Company and others stated in the complaint in preliminary meetings of the same nature as held with the union to satisfy itself that there was merit for a public inquiry.

Further, The Commission met with Mr. Sergey Kostyuk, General Manager RUSAL at the RUSAL Georgetown Office on Monday January 11, 2010.

On Wednesday January 13, 2010, ERC Investigators returned to Watooka House in Linden to meet with the Executives and the persons who were required to give statements as agreed upon at the meeting with the ERC and Guyana Bauxite and General Workers Union (GB&GWU) on Friday January 8, 2010.

After ERC Investigators would have waited for two hours or more and Mr. Sinclair was contacted by phone to inquire as to his whereabouts and the persons to give statements, Mr. Sinclair showed up with a letter and an explanation basically stating that they will not be giving any statements until the ERC agrees to a public inquiry and the modalities of the public inquiry have been put in place.

During January 15 and 16, 2010, ERC Commissioners and Investigators travelled to Aroaima where they met with managers and staff of RUSAL, workers that were on strike but were back at work, workers who signed a letter to the Ministry of Labour asking for derecognition of the union and workers who did not sign the letter and had discussions with them.

However, the records of those meetings will show that the workers did not believe that race and ethnicity was at the centre of this conflict. They saw it as an industrial relations matter.

Further, the ERC received a letter of reply from Minister Nadir dated January 15, 2010 outlining his Ministry’s and the Government’s action in this matter.

Importantly, it is clear from the above actions on the part of the ERC that this complaint was handled with some level of urgency. Within a matter of two weeks all the parties were contacted and engaged for the matter to be addressed.

The ERC wishes to make it known that it is the complainant who has stalled the process. The Commission is awaiting the opportunity to take statements from the aggrieved parties so that the next steps can be determined i.e. to decide on if there is merit for a public inquiry.

The Guyana Bauxite and General Workers Union (GB&GWU) have refused to co-operate with this process.

Further, the Commission has noted the numerous statements and letters in the various dailies from the union as it relates to its complaint to the ERC.

The above represents an accurate and detailed account of the ERC’s interventions.

Let the grandstanding stop and let the process go forward.

The ERC cannot and will not be used for political and/or personal agendas. The Commission will continue to discharge its constitutional mandate without fear or favour, ill will or malice.

Yours faithfully,
Yolanda Ward
Head, Public Education
and Awareness Unit,
Ethnic Relations Commission

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