Chairman of ERC, John Smith

…ERC urges Joint Services 

Amid growing tension on the West Coast of Berbice and East Coast of Demerara, the Ethnic Relations Commission (ERC) has called on the Joint Services to restore law and order.

Irate residents along the two corridors have blocked the roads in protest of the hacking to death of the two teenage cousins – Isaiah and Joel Henry – whose mutilated bodies were discovered last Sunday on a coconut estate in the Cotton Tree Village. Since Sunday, the protest has taken a violent turn with two additional persons being killed – Haresh Singh and Prittipaul Hargobin, and a number of other persons chopped, beaten and robbed. At least two houses and a number of vehicles including two paddy trucks have been set ablaze.

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In a statement this evening, the ERC said it is cognizant of the challenges and complexities that resulted in protest actions, however, with the situation on the ground quickly deteriorating, it is time the Joint Services ups its response.

“[The ERC] is calling on the Joint Services to ensure the East Coast and West Berbice corridors are sanitized, blockades removed and law and order restored,” it said.

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The Commission congratulated the Joint Services for exercising considerable restraint while encountering rising adversity in its efforts to restore normalcy but said it remains concern.

“The ERC remains deeply concerned at the atrocities being committed during those protests which have been unhelpful to efforts of improving race relations in Guyana,” it said.

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It believes that the Joint Services can reassure citizens of their safety and wellbeing while serving to reduce tensions and hindrances to the Police conducting investigations. It also called on the police to urgently conduct more effective patrols along the affected roadways including aerial reconnaissance of the situation on the ground.

The Ethnic Relations Commission expressed satisfaction with the public appeals made thus far by both President Dr. Irfaan Ali and Volda Lawerence, Chairman of the PNCR and, even the father of one of the victims against the spiraling cycle of violence and destruction which have claimed more lives.

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“The Commission empathizes with the grieving families in their calls for justice and reiterates that it will take the necessary course of action, within the confines of its constitutional mandate, to assist in the de-escalation of tensions.  The body also remains committed to taking whatever course of action it deems necessary to promote ethnic harmony and good relations throughout Guyana,” it said.

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The ERC, being a non-political body, reminded all to demonstrate tolerance and appreciation towards their fellow citizens, regardless of ethnic background in this very challenging period.

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The statement by the ERC, comes one day after one of its Commissioners, Roshan Khan called on Indians in the affected communities to weaponize amid the growing tension. He has been condemned for inciting further violence, and the Opposition Leader, Joseph Harmon today called for his removal from the commission.

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