PRESS RELEASE
ERC calls for cessation of hostilities during campaign





January 11, 2020



The Ethnic Relations Commission (ERC) remains mindful of the various incidents of intimidation, abuse and assault on Guyanese while they were engaged in activities to sensitize on political messages reflective of the Parties they represent.


Such acts, which are counterproductive to the valiant efforts being made for the fostering of unity and harmony, have no place in our society and must be condemned. In doing so, the Commission wishes to reiterate sentiments it repeatedly expressed in the past for the periods, prior and post of the March 02, 2020, General and Regional elections, be free of hate, violence and racial or any other form of incitement.


At the beginning of this year, the Commission, in a public message, stated its expectation for peaceful and transparent elections in keeping with democratic principles. That desire remains foremost and the Commission urges all to act responsibly and to demonstrate an unwavering sense of tolerance and respect for each other.


Our freedoms are enshrined allowing each and every Guyanese the democratic right to freely associate and support a political Party of his/her choice and to engage in lawful activities concomitant with election campaigning. This must be respected.


Following the reconstitution of the Commission in 2018, Leaders and representatives of various political Parties, including H.E. President David Granger and Leader of the Opposition, Dr. Bharrat Jagdeo, were engaged. Mutual sentiments for peace and unity were expressed.


In addition, in the run-up to the 2018 Local Government Elections, all Members of Parliament were written to in an effort to remind of the importance of keeping the campaigns and other interactions, including social media, free of any utterance which can impact negatively on national harmony and good relations amongst Guyanese.


Following those engagements and correspondences, expectations for the realization of those mutual desires for peace, were therefore rife. Unfortunately, utterances like, “giving jobs only to my people”, “chase them out” and “war break”, from some public officials, did not help national efforts to promote harmony. Regrettably, their effects are still being felt.


The Commission firmly believes that incidents of harassment, the removal of Party flags and prevention of persons to mount, social media incitement and attacks including those on some performing artistes, propagation of religious preference, referencing Guyanese by ethnicity as tokenism and the alleged stereotyping of ethnic groups as “hardheaded”, are most unhelpful to building and sustaining a cohesive nation.


The Commission reminds that while it is constitutionally mandated to promote harmony and good relations, the task can only be realized through the collective efforts of all Guyanese. In that regard, it takes this opportunity to commend those, including public officials, who expressed disapproval over some of the actions in question.


An appeal is therefore made to all involved for a collectively endeavor to be amicable in disagreement, to work in the best interest of Guyana and Guyanese, to build upon the bonds of togetherness and to ensure that the elections are not catalysts for division.


The Commission calls for an immediate cessation of all hostilities during and after this campaign period and reminds that the welfare of our dear country and its people is in the hands of all. So is peace, during and after the process.


The Commission will, in the near future, embark on initiatives to examine inherent causes which have led to current suspicions and stereotypes and explore possible mitigating measures. Guided by its constitutional parameters in the discharge of its mandate, it will also endeavor to reengage the political leadership while monitoring the current situation.


Ethnic Relations Commission

January 11, 2020