The Equal Opportunity Commission (EOC) will soon resume its monthly engagements in Tobago, says director of Legal Services at the commission, Haran Ramkaransingh.
Last week, the commission hosted a two-day outreach caravan at the Roxborough Administrative Complex and at the Port Mall in Scarborough, geared at engaging members of the public and giving them the opportunity to learn more about the EOC, their rights pertaining to equality of opportunity, and consultation on equal-opportunity issues.
Ramkaransingh said the commission is a statutory body that was created by the Equal Opportunities Act.
“The act was passed to prohibit certain kinds of discrimination. The act applies to discrimination in four broad areas – employment, education, the provision of goods and services, and the provision of accommodation."
He asked members of the public, "Are you being discriminated because of your race, ethnicity, sex, religion, disability?”
He said Tobago was hosting the first two stops on the caravan.
“It’s a good opportunity for the people of Tobago to gather information on the process of dealing with discrimination. If it is that you were discriminated in those areas, you can lodge a complaint with us and we are mandated to investigate the complaints and, where possible, try to conciliate the complaint.”
He also discussed the process the commission follows. “We bring the parties together, ask them questions and then bring the parties to a table to have a conversation. If it cannot be resolved, then there is a second institution – the Equal Opportunities Tribunal – and they are a court so they can hear and adjudicate on the matter.”
He said since the start of the pandemic, the commission had shifted its public-education programme to a digital one to continue its advocacy and education efforts. However, he said they are now reconnecting with the public on the ground.
“In the past, we used to have an office day in Tobago but with covid19 that came to an end, so part of what we’re doing is to let the public know that we hope to restart our office day in Tobago in the new year.”
In the interim, he said the services are available online.
Attendees also benefited from free legal advice on discrimination, learned about the EOC’s free services and obtained information brochures and material. In addition, they were also able to lodge a complaint if they felt they had been discriminated against. There were also games available and prizes to be won.
He said based on the feedback over the period, it was realised that most Tobagonians were unaware of the commission and what its duties entailed.
One member of the public raised an issue about his child not being admitted into a public school because of a speech impediment.
Ramkaransingh said the commission would be unable to pronounce on the matter immediately as they needed to explore both sides.
“Just taking it at face value, that looked like discrimination in education on the disability of the child.”