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Govt rubbishes Jagdeo’s ERC claims; mulls reviving process

Minister of Governance Raphael Trotman.

Rejecting claims by the opposition People’s Progressive Party Civic (PPPC) that the Social Cohesion drive was aimed at supplanting the Ethnic Relations Commission (ERC), government on Wednesday said it was considering taking a motion to the National Assembly to appoint the nominees that were agreed to by the last Parliament before the May 11, 2015 general elections.

“In no way, does it supplant or take over or usurp the functions of the ERC. The ERC needs to be appointed very quickly and get busy and so, too, the other Rights Commissions,” Minister of Governance, Raphael Trotman told a news conference.

He said getting the ERC up and running was not as easy as the call by Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo since then President Donald Ramotar had not appointed the nominees that had been proposed to him by the House.

Trotman said so far legal opinions are in favour of having the 11th Parliament call for and accept nominees for ERC Commissioners, a process that requires two-thirds majority of the 65 members of the National Assembly.

He, however, noted that government was actively considering another option- bringing back the nominees to the House for approval through a Motion.  “If, in fact, the Leader of the Opposition would agree to a motion which we intend to bring that says the 11th Parliament will endorse the list generated by the 10th Parliament- because the truth is same players, just that they have changed sides- then we will proceed,” he said.

“No, impossible,” was the Governance Minister’s reaction when asked whether the government’s Social Cohesion process was aimed at usurping the ERC’s role and function to foster social cohesion, receive complaints and enforce the relevant laws against acts that promote ethnic division. “The ERC remains a constitutional entity. Whether you have an Ethnic Relations Commission or not, it is the duty of a responsible government to seek social cohesion in our society,” he said.