80 racial, religious complaints filed with ERC in 2023

The content originally appeared on: INews Guyana
ERC’s Chief Executive Officer, Gomin Camacho

Some eighty complaints founded in racial or religious issues were lodged at the Ethnic Relations Commission (ERC) in 2023, and the investigative unit of this body has made significant strides in achieving varying degrees of resolution of those complaints.

According to ERC Chairman Shaikh Moeen-ul-Hack, the ERC has been able to resolve most cases via softer means of dispute resolution such as mediation and reconciliation, and to a lesser extent through forwarding cases to the police for prosecution.

ERC Chairman Sheikh Moeenul Hack speaking at the press conference on Wednesday

As a result, 11 of those complaints were withdrawn, seven investigations were concluded, and three cases have been closed.

He said that 23 cases remain open, five have required police intervention, and 10 have been directed to external agencies. A further 26 cases are yet to be investigated, and two cases have been resolved through conciliation.

While the Commission’s investigative unit has been steadfast in its commitment to resolving issues of discrimination, ERC’s Chief Executive Officer Gomin Camacho explained that more work needs to be done to resolve cases involving overseas-based Guyanese.

“A number of those cases have been outside of Guyana, so the current position of the commission is that we have written for legal advice on how we treat with these cases,” he explained. “As it is, the system in the media monitoring unit flag these cases and then forward them to our investigative unit, which then looks at the basis of the violation and analyse those against the laws of Guyana,” Camacho explained.

Questioned about clearing the commission’s backlog of complaints, the CEO explained that ERC is treating fresh cases with priority, given that they are easier to resolve and require less investigation time.

“This new commission has inherited a backlog of cases, and we’re still in the process of going through and filtering through those. The newer cases that have come in have been treated with more expediency, that we are able to better get the information while it is still fresh and we’re able to investigate and close some of those cases,” Camacho said.

The Ethnic Relations Commission is mandated to promote equality, harmony, and good relations between persons of different ethnic groups, so as to eliminate all forms of discrimination on the basis of ethnicity.

It is also required to discourage and prohibit persons, institutions, political parties and associates from indulging in, advocating, or promoting discriminatory practices on the ground of ethnicity.

Through investigations, resolution facilitation and strategic collaborations, the ERC said, it remains dedicated to promoting an equitable society where every individual’s rights are safeguarded.

To confront any form of discrimination, the ERC’s Media Monitoring Unit plays a pivotal role in scrutinizing mass media content across platforms like social media, television, radio, and newspapers. In this regard, there were 105 instances of ethnically/racially offensive comments over the past year. These instances have been of varying magnitudes, many of which warranted warnings, while others of a more serious nature are forwarded to the investigative unit for future action.

On Wednesday during a press conference, the ERC reaffirmed its commitment to promoting harmony and good relations, recognizing the importance of sustained engagement and collaboration in achieving its vision for a harmonious Guyana.