The National Assembly on Friday evening approved the appointment of ten nominees to sit on the Ethnic Relations Commission (ERC) which has not been in operation since 2011.
Opposition MP Juan Edghill while signalling his party’s support for the establishment and operationalizing of this body, expressed concern at the length of time it has taken for the House to approve the names given that this has been an item listed on the order paper since last year April.
Those appointed are Dr. John O. Smith, the representative for the Christian Bodies; Sister Rajkumarie Singh for the Hindu Bodies; Roshan Khan for the Muslim Bodies; Norris Emanuel Witter for the Labour Movement Bodies; Major-General (Retd.) Norman Mclean for the Private Sector Organisations; Deodat Persaud for the Youth Organisations; Ruth Howard for the Women’s Organisations and for the Cultural/Ethnic Bodies; Barrington Braithwaite representing Afro-Guyanese; Neaz Subhan representing Indo-Guyanese and Ashton Simon representing Indigenous/ Amerindian Bodies.
“So while we are dealing with this we must address our minds to something, that something has to happen at the level of the House that allows for the expeditious treating of these motions to operationalize these very important constitutional rights commissions and that they should not be left to languish”, Edghill said, while informing that the National Assembly’s Committee on Appointments which has a mandate to consult and put together a list of nominees began its work on this particular matter almost immediately after being established in 2015.
At the time Edghill was making a presentation on a motion which called for the adoption of the Third Report of the Standing Committee on Appointments to address matters relating to the nomination and appointment of members to the ERC.
The MP, a former Chairman of the ERC, stressed that a committee having completed its work must somehow have the support of the House and those who manage the business of the House that “we don’t have committee reports languishing this long on the order paper when the people need to be served and these very important bodies need to be addressed”.
He explained that the committee was asked to consult with more than 160 organizations in ten different categories and noted that the National Assembly must also take notice of how the consultation is done and how to get civil society engaged.
The Committee’s Chairman, Minister of Social Cohesion, Dr George Norton informed that there were was some difficulties getting nominations from the Muslim, Indian and Amerindian bodies but after an extension of time was given, the Muslim and the Amerindian bodies submitted the names of their nominees. He said that the difficulty with the Indian bodies persisted but eventually a nomination was received.
Norton told the House that government does recognise the length of time that the report has been on the order paper.
“It was not in our interest for it to be here that long. It wasn’t deliberate”, he stressed while adding that government would have wanted to see more participation from civil society, stressing that government did make a genuine effort in this regard.
“Many of times we had to extend the deadline which were given to them and even after that persons did not respond”, he said.