July 2006 Media Conference
Update on National Conversation/ engagements with youths, religious community and women
In the interest of preserving the integrity of the Multi-Stakeholder Forum process and achieving its stated objectives and outcomes, the MSF Steering Committee has agreed that the National Conversation should be held after the upcoming elections.
In the meantime, in an effort to continue the process of enhancing social cohesion and deepening participatory democracy, the ERC with the assistance of international partners, UNICEF and UNDP will engage women, youths and religious leaders in discussions where they can agree on strategies for overcoming ethnic and other differences and focus on how best they can contribute to the development of their community and country.
These discussions should take place from Tuesday, August 8th with women, Wednesday, August 9th with religious leaders and Thursday, August 10th with youths. The venues will be announced.
Culture Fest 2006.
Culture Fest 2006 is scheduled for August 11th and 12th at the National Exhibition Complex, Sophia. This activity is aimed at showcasing Guyana’s cultural and religious diversity and falls within the ERC’s mandate as set out in the Constitution under Article 212 D f to “Encourage and create respect for religious, cultural and other forms of diversity in a plural society.”
Culture Fest 2006 will bring together the different art forms and lifestyles of all of Guyana’s peoples. Visitors will be able to learn about the culture and religion of their ancestors and of other groups. It will be an educational-fun activity. Leading local artistes and bands will provide ‘clean’ entertainment that families can enjoy. All the traditional foods and beverages will be on sale.
The ERC believes that unity can best be achieved when persons know and understand each other and take time to engage each other.
Individuals or organizations wishing to be a part of Culture Fest can contact the ERC Secretariat on telephone numbers 231-6281 or 231-6473.
PUBLIC EDUCATION & AWARENESS
The first ERC Inter-Secondary School Debating Competion has concluded. Zeeburg Secondary School of Region Three walked away with the ERC’s trophy. Twenty-two Schools from Regions Three, Four, Five, Six and Ten competed. Certificates were presented to all students (66) who debated and winners in each category received trophies. The final debate was attended by some 500 students from the participating regions.
The competition was aimed at getting students to research the impact racial and ethnic differences have on society. The level of arguments put forward by all schools demonstrated that the students would have done in depth research. The ERC hopes the knowledge gained from this exercise will guide the young people towards more responsible behaviour. The debates will soon be aired on television.
The next round of the competition is being organized and should see more schools being involved.
A number of entries from all across Guyana have been received and a team of judges will soon be empanelled to determine the winners in each category. Prizes will be awarded to the winners. This exercise was aimed at garnering the views of youths on the issue of racial and ethnic differences.
Letter writing exercise
The public, especially youths and senior citizens were invited to pen letters to politicians expressing their views for a peaceful Guyana. A number of letters were received and these and being packaged to deliver to the relevant political parties.
The ERC’s Film Festival will continue with a special campaign for the August Holiday primarly focusing on youth camps and groups. Organizations such as the Lions and Rotary will also be targeted.
Public education on laws prohibiting excitement to ethnic violence or hatred.
Very soon the broadcast and print media will be utilized in educating the public on laws prohibiting the use of language or actions that can excite or cause to excite racial or ethnic violence or hatred. These include such Acts as the Representation of the People’s Act and the Racial Hostility Act. The Commission is hoping that an informed public will not tolerate such statements to be made in their communities or such actions to be perpetuated.
The ERC is conducting an elections monitoring exercise aimed at monitoring the media and political public meetings to identify language that excite ethnic or racial animosity. Monitoring is now being conducted in a limited manner but very shortly it will be expanded. Monitors will be based in all administrative regions. In addition there will be monitors at the Secretariat who will examine the content of newspapers and television and radio programmes.
Fifty-six complaints were brought forward from 2005 and an additional 43 received so far for this year.
As of 11th of this month, 36 of the total complaints were closed, 13 have been referred to other agencies and 50 are currently receiving the Commission’s attention. Of the 50, investigations for nine have been completed and decisions will be made on these based on the information gathered, 18 are under investigation and the remaining 23 are awaiting further information from the complainants/affected parties.
The Commission will be conducting a public hearing into the complaint brought by JIG-UK
Conflict transformation workshops – Tain & Saraswat
The ERC is scheduling for this month, two conflict transformation workshops.
As you are aware there was a complaint made against residents of Tain Village on the Corentyne where two young men alleged that they were abused because of their ethnicity. And at the Saraswat Primary School, De Willem Village, West Coast Demerara, teachers alleged that residents had made racial statements which affected them.
The Commission has been involved in reconciling these communities and will be engaging residents in conflict transformation workshops.
Roundtable discussions with Religious leaders of West Demerara
Later this month the ERC will continue its engagement with religious leaders of West Demerara.
On September 8, 2005, the ERC met with leaders of the Christian, Muslim, Hindu, Bahai and Hari Krishna congregations in Region Three.
The concern of pre and post-elections violence was ventilated and it was accepted that Religious Leaders and all religious groups have a role to play in helping with the prevention of such violence. The leaders had requested that the ERC continue the discussion.
Public meeting with Corriverton residents.
At the request of residents of Corriverton, the ERC will return sometime this month to facilitate the continuation of a discussion that started during September of last year.
At that time, the issue of ‘ethnic labeling’ was discussed, with residents divided on whether the use of terms such as ‘Afro-Guyanese’ and ‘Indo-Guyanese’ serve to divide the people. The residents had requested that the ERC facilitates the continuation of the discussion at a community level round-table forum.
The Commission takes this opportunity to all on all political parties, civil society, religious and cultural organizations, women and youth to work towards the fostering of a sense of security among all ethnic groups, by encouraging and promoting the understanding, acceptance and tolerance of diversity in all aspects of national life and promoting the full participation by all ethnic groups in the social, economic, cultural and political life of the people.