Ramjattan wanted by ERC for racially-insensitive comments

AFC Leader Khemraj Ramjattan

Leader of the Alliance For Change (AFC), Khemraj Ramjattan has been named a person of interest by the Ethnic Relations Commission (ERC) in relation to racially insensitive remarks that were made by him.

The Commission today published his name and photo among a list of persons who would have displayed similar conduct. They are required to contact the ERC before a stipulated period, and failure or refusal to do so will result in the imposition of legal consequences.

Apart from the AFC leader and former Minister of Public Security, a total of 55 persons were made public. Their names were listed from social media handle, Facebook, with the information under the name in which their profile appears.

When contacted, Public Relations Officer Shiv Nandalall said the violations amounted to racially insensitive remarks that were made “on one or more occasions”.

The ERC noted that a number of persons have already responded to these publications and as such the body is encouraging other violators to follow suit.

This is not the first time Ramjattan has been caught displaying such conduct. In June, People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) had lodged a complaint with the Ethnic Relations Commission against Ramjattan, who was also the APNU/AFC’s Prime Ministerial Candidate. It would have surrounded racially incendiary remarks he made during a television programme broadcast in Trinidad and Tobago.

The complaint was filed by PPP/C Executive, Anil Nandlall, who said that during the “Morning Edition” programme that was broadcast on CCN TV6 in the twin-island republic earlier that day, Ramjattan alleged that there was a political advertisement published in Guyana that states Afro-Guyanese “can’t run oil money, you have to have East Indians doing that.”

Nandlall complained to the ERC that these words were intended to and are capable of inciting “racial hostilities” amongst the people of Guyana, particularly between Indo and Afro Guyanese.

Nandlall had pointed out that his choice of words may constitute an offence under the Racial Hostility Act, Chapter 23:01, Laws of Guyana, and are not protected by Article 146 of the Constitution of Guyana which guarantees freedom of expression and free speech, excepting, inter alia, “expressions, in whatever form, capable of exciting hostility against any person or class of persons.”

In light of these circumstances, the party requested that the Commission launch an investigation of this complaint and take such actions that it considers necessary and appropriate against Ramjattan.

The PPP/C had also highlighted such incendiary statements by coalition members during the protracted electoral process. Back in March, the party had signalled its intention to file a complaint with the ERC against caretaker Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo over his use of provocative language which can be viewed as intending to “incite racial strife and animosity among our people”.

Amid the prolonged five-month elections stalemate earlier this year, there were tense derogatory remarks along racial lines. The ERC had indicated in July that it had been receiving a “plethora” of racially insensitive and inciting complaints, mainly targeted at politicians and political parties.

The ERC added that it was fully cognisant of the devastating impact these incidents “which incite race hate and violence, have on the further widening of division among the ethnic groups and the need for investigations to be completed swiftly, seeks the public’s indulgence for understanding. It assures of its continual efforts to work assiduously to have these matters resolved within the shortest possible time”.

Under Article 212D of the Constitution of the Co-operative Republic of Guyana, the ERC has 24 functions – one of which is a mandate to investigate complaints from citizens across the country where acts of alleged ethnic discrimination have been committed. Also, the Commission is mandated to enforce the Racial Hostility Act and the Representation of the People (Amendment) Act.