Ministers’ controversial statements engaging attention of ERC – Chairman

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Prime Minister, Moses Nagamootoo speaking at Bartica.
Minister of Finance, Winston Jordan speaking at Bartica.

Comments by senior Government officials to initiate “street protests” and “war break” in a bid to lobby for house-to-house registration are currently under the microscope of the Ethnic Relations Commission (ERC), after Opposition Chief Whip, Gail Teixeira penned concerns on the outcome of such statements.

Chairman of the Commission, Reverend John Smith explained on Thursday that the body is in receipt of the letter and it was forwarded to the Investigation Unit. After the evaluation is completed, Commissioners will make their input to determine the final outcome.

Asked whether the Commission has expressed concerns over the series of events, Smith noted that it is too early to determine since the letter was sent just a couple of days ago.

“We have received them. There is a system that we do that we send them over to the Investigation Unit so it is gone and they will deal with it from there…At the end of the investigation, it comes to the Commissioners so it is early days. The speech was on Monday and today is Thursday. We’re here two days,” he stated.

Prime Minister, Moses Nagamootoo speaking at Bartica.

The People’s Progressive Party (PPP) had written both the Commissioner of Police and the ERC over the comments made by Finance Minister Winston Jordan and Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo just after the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) ruling.

Opposition Chief Whip Gail Teixeira in the letters to the Police Commissioner and ERC Head referenced media reports quoting the two officials while on a Government- sponsored outreach in Bartica, Region Seven (Cuyuni-Mazaruni).

In this letter, she called on Smith and Leslie James to intercede with the President and his Ministers, in keeping with the Commission’s constitutional mandate to promote peace and harmony.

“Reports in the media emanating from the President and Ministers are cause for concern. These statements in response to the rulings of the highest court of Guyana, the Caribbean Court of Justice, have been unsettling and disturbing. These statements and declarations should no doubt also be cause for profound concern by Ethnic Relations Commission and the entire citizenry,” Teixeira noted in her letter.

She added that these statements are inciting and a threat to public order and safety, and are in contempt of the Caribbean Court of Justice rulings of June 18, 2019.

She referenced Jordan’s calls for citizens to be ready to protest for house-to-house registration and uttering “war break” as he called for street protests. Another reference was made to Jordan saying that regardless of the CCJ ruling, house-to-house registration must be carried out. Meanwhile, she referenced quotes attributed to Nagamootoo in which he warned of “trouble” if house-to-house registration was not completed.

In her letter to Police Commissioner Leslie James, she reminded him of his calls on March 21 for Guyanese to remain calm and keep the peace. She also reminded him that he had warned at the time that persons breaching the law would be held accountable. According to Teixeira, these statements are inciting and a threat to public order and safety.

(DPI photos)