Appointment of Members of the Ethnic Relations Commission2340 10 Feb, 2014
Mrs. Garrido-Lowe: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. First of all, on behalf of the Alliance For Change, I would like to welcome the Hon. Dr. Karen Cummings to this Parliament and to recognise the promotion of the Hon. Mr. Ronald Bulkan and of course my friend the Hon. Jennifer Webster... Sorry. ...and the Hon. Deputy Speaker, Mr. Basil Williams.
Mr. Speaker: I thought I heard you say something about Ms. Kissoon but I could not be sure.
Mrs. Garrido-Lowe: Thank you. On behalf of the Alliance For Change I rise in support of the motion carried in the name of the Hon. Member Dr. George Norton, Chairman of the Committee of Appointments, to increase the number of members appointed to the Ethnic Relations Commission from seven to ten members and to include a new category, ‘Cultural Ethnic’, with a right to have three members being one representative each of the three largest ethnic groups and the list of entities on the attached first schedule in accordance with Article 212 (i) AB.
Arriving at this consensual agreement was a slow and tedious process. We had to thoroughly scrutinise previous lists of legitimate religious bodies – Hindu, Muslim and Christian – the labour movement, private sector bodies, youth bodies and women bodies. Letters were then sent out to each and every one of these bodies, hundreds of them, to ascertain whether they were still functioning or not and Guyanese, being Guyanese, took their gracious time to reply although a deadline was given.
However, from responses received a new list was prepared to be brought to this august House. There is genuine need for an expanded Ethnic Relations Commission. Indeed we are a nation of six races and here I choose to omit the category of the European race from our regular list of six races in Guyana and would like start acknowledging our beautiful mixed race that is growing larger every day in all ten Regions of this country. If one were to be totally honest one would naturally come to the conclusion that the mixed race right now, besides the indigenous, is one of the fastest growing ethnic groups in Guyana.
Many a time, especially during our elections period I would hear persons lamenting the fact that Guyana has six races but they do not fit into any of them and this is a cry that comes especially from our young people. For instance there is the youth of Indian Guyanese and African Guyanese parentage and what ethnic description do we officially ascribe to this individual? Mr. Speaker, there is none except the Creole word, ‘Dougla’. Then there is the child born of Indigenous and African Guyanese parentage whom, in Creolese, is referred to as ‘Buffiano’ and every day we socialise in some way or the other with persons born of Chinese and African Guyanese parentage, Indian Guyanese and Indigenous Guyanese parentage, Portuguese and Indigenous Guyanese parentage and some from parentages of all ethnic groups.
They are our brothers and sisters, our aunts and uncles, our parents and grandparents and our neighbours. These Guyanese contribute to Guyana having a genuine mixed race and this information should be seriously acknowledged and officially categorised as such. This is a matter that could be addressed by the Ethnic Relations Commission as early as possible. Since it is a fact that our nation still suffers at times from the scourge of racism the inclusion of the Cultural Ethnic category with the addition of one representative from the three major ethnic groups will give voice to more persons with complaints to be heard.
The Alliance For Change is pleased to support this motion in its entirety and wishes to thank the Chairman and the Members of the Committee of Appointments and those from the Parliament’s staff who worked patiently and tirelessly in support of the Committee to make sure that the process to arrive at the final list was a truly democratic one. Thank you. [Applause]
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