Political parties sign code of conduct; ERC cites leading parties for inciting racism
The eleven political parties contesting the March 2 general and regional elections on Thursday signed on to Code of Conduct with the Ethnic Relations Commission (ERC) in which they pledged to avoid the use of threats, harassment or intimidation during the elections period.
Failure to adhere to the Code of Conduct can lead to legal action from the body which has since established a Rapid Response Unit to deal with infractions.
The code covers the next three weeks leading up to the elections and the post-elections period.
The document was signed on the day the ERC has had reason to write to the two major political parties –the APNU+AFC and the PPP/C – warning them about inciting racism at their political rallies and public meetings.
Chairman of the ERC, Rev. John Smith, in his address to the gathering at the Georgetown Club, Camp Street, Georgetown, said the body has been monitoring the conduct of political party agents and supporters on social media platforms as well as in the press.
“Internal reports compiled from monitoring public meetings and the traditional and non-traditional media including Facebook are major cause for concern with behaviour and utterance which is not helpful to the efforts of promoting harmony,” he noted.
Going forward, he called on parties to “work towards eliminating such public displays through a more responsible approach in an effort to ensure that the remaining period of the campaign is free of ethnic division, discrimination, hate speech, incitement and provocation.”
The code was signed in the presence of members of the diplomatic corps, the private sector, elections observers and others.
Among other things, it forbids removing, defacing, besmirching, obscuring, destroying, damaging or altering party paraphernalia.
The document was signed by Presidential Candidate of A New and United Guyana (ANUG) Ralph Ramkarran, APNU elections agent Joseph Harmon and AFC Chairman Raphael Trotman, Prime Ministerial Candidate of Change Guyana Mishka Puran, member of the Liberty and Justice Party Davon Vanveen, Leader of the Organisation for Victory of the People party Gerald Perriera, Executive Secretary of the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) Zulfikar Mustapha and member Vickram Bharrat, Presidential Candidate of the People’s Republic Party (PRP) Phyllis Jordan, member of the United Republic Party (URP) Marcia Lewis, Presidential Candidate of The Citizenship Initiative (TCI) Rhonda Lam, members of The New Movement (TNM), and member of the Federal United (FedUP) party Neesa Sibdhanny.
Following the signing, each parties’ representative was invited to give a speech where they all called for unity.
Jordan who represented the PRP spoke of the issues being faced by smaller parties to get their message across during the campaign period. Her point was applauded by the other new parties in the room.
The PRP Presidential Candidate is of the view that the code is “a farce” but this was debunked by APNU elections agent and former Minister of State Joseph Harmon who said the document “will auger in a new period for political understanding… ”
He was followed by Mustapha of the PPP/C who also welcomed the event, the first by the ERC since its formation.
The ERC is a Constitutional body entrusted with the promotion harmony and good relations
According to the code of conduct, failure to adhere to the code will render parties liable for breach of the agreement and necessary actions and sanctions may be implemented against the parties by the ERC.