A majority percentage (87.2%) of the complaints received by the Ethnic Relations Commission (ERC) regard incidents on social media, more specifically Facebook, with a total of 89 complaints out of 102.
The Commission said that its capacity to productively investigate those complaints is limited by factors such as the use of fake profiles to make racially insensitive posts or comments. In the case of active profiles, there are challenges such as private user profiles or the unavailability of the accused person’s legal name, address or contact information, or whether the accused is residing out of Guyana, making jurisdiction an issue.
As a result of those limitations, the Commission has adopted two courses. First, it has published the posts and faces of persons whom complaints have been made against through social media in the “Persons of Interest” initiative. This has generated positive feedback with the public’s assistance and in some cases the co-operation of the accused.
The ERC said that individuals such as Chaitram Goberdhan aka Bounty, Lucra Adams, Lashana Chester, Mollyann Moonsammy, Marcel Haymer and Tifany Greene have contacted the Commission. The practice of publishing persons of interest will be done periodically and the Commission is relying on the public’s assistance in identifying offenders, the ERC said.
Secondly, the Commission met with the Criminal Investigations Department, Cyber Crimes Unit and the two agencies are on a productive path of working together.
It noted however, that some of the complaints received by the Commission do not offend against the Racial Hostility Act nor the Representation of the People Act but instead are criminal offences to be investigated by the police. Those complaints have been referred to the police for necessary action. Eight Facebook incidents fall in that category.
One complaint of an incident in the real world fell under the jurisdiction of the police and evoked summary court proceedings. Furthermore, another complaint fell outside of the ambit of the ERC but is a matter to be investigated by the Women and Gender Equality Commission.
The Commission has also investigated complaints made against public officials, for instance, the Mayor of Bartica is currently under investigation. Since the publication of his name in the” Persons of Interest”, he has undertaken to co-operate with the commission.
Despite the many impediments, the Commission said that it has been tirelessly working to promote harmony and good relations in Guyana.