Appointment of Members of the Ethnic Relations Commission4529 10 Feb, 2014
Dr. Norton: Mr. Speaker, I rise to move the following motion brought in my name, Appointment of Members of the Ethnic Relations Commission. Before I go on Mr. Speaker, just allow me to say that congratulations are in order for Doctor the Honourable Karen Vanessa Cummings, who is honouring us here in this Honourable House with her charm and beauty, being female and her youth of course. I am looking forward to the help that she will offer to me in particular, being a member of the medical fraternity in that portfolio which I shadow at present. Likewise, congratulations are in order for my colleague, the Hon. Basil Williams, who is now elevated to the position of Deputy Speaker. Also, to the Hon. Ronald Bulkan, who has now moved to the front bench. I must say with his baptism of fire, he demonstrated amply that he himself, like ambition, is made of sterner stuff and no amount of lickling can cause him to buckle. [Interruption]
Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Article 119 C of the Constitution and under the provision Standing Order No. 84, the Standing Committee on Appointments established under the Constitution has agreed to move this motion addressing matters related to the appointment of members of the Ethnic Relations Commission (ERC). This Committee was entrusted by the National Assembly to discharge mainly three functions to the appointment of members of the Ethnic Relations Commission:
(1) To identify, consult and receive nominations of appropriate bodies for the appointment of relevant members of the Ethnic Relations Commission;
(2) To recommend to the National Assembly a consensual mechanism, and that can be seen in the second schedule of this report, for the appointment of members to the ERC;
(3) To report to the National Assembly in relations to the Ethnic Relations Commission as soon as possible.
The mandate of this Committee is given by Article 212 B(1)(a) of the Constitution to nominate for the President to appoint, members to the Ethnic Relations Commission not less than 5 nor no more than 15 members, nominated by entities, by consensual mechanism determined by the National Assembly, including entities representative of religious bodies, the labour movement, the private business sector, youth and women, after the votes are determined by votes of not less than two-thirds of all elected Members of the National Assembly.
There was some urgency of this Committee in establishing the ERC since its life was expired. The database base of the entities/agencies consulted for nominations of members was that which was developed by the previous Committee of Appointments. All entities were written to, to ascertain whether they were in existence. The criteria for selection of the entities were established. This motion seeks the approval of the National Assembly for these entities.
It was decided to increase the membership of the ERC from seven to ten by adding a new entity called Cultural/Ethnic Group, which would have three nominees, one representing each of the three major ethnic groups of Guyana; that is the Indo-Guyanese, Afro-Guyanese and the Indigenous Guyanese. Actually this was decided after considering three options.
The Committee also agreed to place entities which fell under the Inter-Religious Organisation (IRO) under the three major religious bodies. The Committee agreed to write four entities, namely, the Ananda Marga, the Bakja Health Movement, the Family Federation for World Peace and the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’I of Guyana that were unclassified under those three religious bodies to a ascertain under which religious category they preferred to be included, to be consulted to submit nominees, to be appointed to the Ethnic Relations Commission.
In addition, it was agreed that should the entities fail to accept being included under one of the religious categories, they would be excluded from the list of the ERC entities submitted to the National Assembly. Based on their response, two of the entities, Ananda Marga and the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’I of Guyana were excluded from the entities. The Bakja Health Movement was listed under the category of Muslim Bodies and the Family Federation of World Peace was listed under the category of Christian Bodies.
Mr. Speaker, the Committee seeks the approval of the National Assembly of the number of nominees for each group of entities to be as follows: The group or body Hindu - the number of representatives would be one; Muslims – one; Christian – one – Labour – one; Women – one; Youth – one; Business – one; and the Cultural/Ethnic Group, that new category, would have three. That gives us a total of 10 members.
The other two options that we considered both had 14 members. In one, we considered the new cultural/ethnic group and that had its three members, along with Business – two; Youth – two; Women – two; Labour – two; and one for Hindu, Muslim and Christian, giving us a total of 14. The other group that we considered, but did not find favour with, was without the Cultural/Ethnic Group and we doubled all of their number of representatives by two, so we had a total of 14.
The Committee seeks the approval of this National Assembly for the consensual mechanism for the nomination of members of the entities, as was set out in the Second Schedule that is in the Report.
The Committee agreed that the motion as well as a Report should be tabled in the National Assembly, hence, this motion and report is accordingly hereby moved. Thank you very much. [Applause]
Dr. Norton (replying): I would just like to thank both sides of the House for the support we had. I hope that you will support us, especially now that we, according to the Hon. Ms. Teixeira as she has outlined the work that we have ahead of us, but we already have that eligibility for the NGOs as well as the consensual mechanism all in place so it should not be difficult for us to go and achieve that we will set out to do this year and I can say to you that the general atmosphere in our meetings was cordial and it was not contentious and I think everybody has exercised their good behaviour. Thank you very much.
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