Appointment of Members of the Ethnic Relations Commission3161 10 Feb, 2014
Ms. Teixeira: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I do not want to repeat what other Members have said except in particular to highlight the absence of Mrs. Backer who worked with me when I was Chairperson of the Committee of Appointment, starting in 2004, I think. Tonight coming here with the ERC motion, I believe, is a contribution of all the Members of the Committee and included some of the work we did on the draft motion.
I would like the Committee to acknowledge that Mrs. Backer, as I think my colleague Dr. Leslie Ramsammy said, was a fierce advocate but one know where one stood with her and so in the Committee of Appointment we hope that the work that has been started by this Committee in the 10th Parliament only started around January of last year, 2013, after the new Parliament started.
We have now a situation of having several Rights Commissions expired and so I want to urge that whilst I think we have made a major step forward with the ERC which was blocked, voted against and could not get it in with a two-thirds majority in the 8th and the 9th Parliament at the same time, I think that this is a very important achievement that we are making here tonight.
I also want to caution that we have the Women and Gender Equality Commission, the Rights of the Child that expired, the Service Commissions have expired, all within 2013 and we need to have the Committee of Appointment to address these plus in some of the legislation, including the one that was raised by Mr. Williams earlier tonight with the Local Government Commission; the Committee of Appointment plays a role in there as well.
We have a lot of work to do this year and I hope that in the beginning of 2014 we will be able to work in the same manner we were able to work on the ERC in 2013 so that we can move expeditiously forward and in a fair way. That is one issue that I want to raise.
The second thing is that Dr. Ramsammy talked about the NGO criteria and this is also to acknowledge it as he did. Mrs. Sheila Holder, one of her major concerns was ensuring that the Committee was in fact selecting organisations that were bona fide; that they had some criteria and that whilst we talked about governance in Government and in Parliament and in other places that the NGOs we were also looking at were of a high standard and so finally. Dr. Ramsammy is the one who drafted the document that eventually we discussed and was fine-tuned in the Committee of Appointments. I want to acknowledge both Mrs. Holder and Dr. Ramsammy.
The third issue I want to raise quickly: I think sometimes we hear a lot of things about non-inclusion but if you were to just sit and look at the list of organisations in this motion there are 183 NGOs. The first ERC motion that was brought in, I think, 2003, had over 100. The second motion which was defeated in 2007 had 168 NGOs. We have now increased the NGOs to 188.
I think people need to really appreciate that when we come up with these lists we try to ensure that there are a broad spectrum, that they are representative bodies and that we should be proud of the fact that we are the only one that has this model in the Region where civil society... and in these cases under this Rights Commission it deals with religious, labour, private sector, women and youth and now the new category that has been added on.
In relation to the new category of the representatives of the three major ethnic groups, we are dealing with NGOs that are relating to those groups on a cultural bases or on an ethnic basis and therefore these are organisations for the first time on the back are being included in the ERC.
This was an issue when the Constitution was amended and this Commission was added there were questions by a number of NGOs of why there was an Ethnic Relations Commission where there was no representation, culturally or ethnically, of people of different ethnic groups and so forth.
I think the combination and the inclusion, while still keeping to the constitutional requirements is an important initiative of the Committee of Appointment and I believe that if we can work like this in the 10th Parliament in the Committee of Appointment the constitutional bodies that are the mandate of the Committee of Appointment and we do not get into what we got into in the 8th and 9th Parliament it will be a very good development for this Parliament and for Guyana.
Thank you very much. [Applause]
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