Georgetown, Guyana- (July 25, 2015) The Ministry of Social Cohesion launched its regional consultation exercise at Belladrum, West Coast Berbice today.  Minister Ally told the over 60 residents in attendance at the Belladrum Primary School, that with Local Government Elections fast approaching, residents need to make the issue of development a priority rather than putting race on the front burner.

The purpose of this initiative is to engage citizens at the community level in a national conversation on the promotion of togetherness and national unity, one of the most important mandates of the Ministry.  Minister Ally explained the provisions of Article 149 of Guyana’s Constitution which prohibits any form of discrimination against any person on the grounds of race, place of origin, and/or political affiliation.

“Your relationships in the community are important. We want to promote useful and productive relationships within and among groups at the community level. How you relate to neighbouring communities, regardless of your ethnic background, is also important,” she said.

The explained that when individuals and groups fail to find common ground on issues that affect their development and when they are unable to resolve conflicts that arise from time to time, the society breaks down. In this regard, the Ministry wants to build trust among communities and for that to happen there must be behavioural changes and the creation of an atmosphere of peace and acceptance. 

Residents welcomed the initiative and recommended youth involvement and strong relationships between the community and its leaders.  Belladrum resident, Julian David said “Residents need to have closer relationships with their NDCs and RDCs and more importantly, there should be no place for party politics in community development.”   

He called for effective communication between leaders and ordinary citizens saying it is key to ensuring that communities become more united. David said that often, leaders allow themselves to become isolated by the Office that they hold and communities are left feeling neglected. 

The outreaches are intended to be a first step in ensuring that communities work with their leaders to bring about social change.  “I want to ensure that you feel a sense of belonging…in your country. We are all different, recognise those differences and respect them. Do not allow them to become barriers,” Minister Ally said. 

The Minister is urging all faith-based organisations to get on-board as the Ministry strives to find ways and means of eradicating discriminatory practices that have plagued communities in Guyana for decades. 

Meanwhile, the newly-appointed Regional Chairman of Region Five, Vickchand Ramphal, assured Minister Ally that her Ministry will have the full support of the Regional Democratic Council (RDC) in its quest to bring about positive changes. 

Region Five Parliamentary Representative, Jennifer Wade said that this initiative is one that is badly needed in the region and spoke about the age-old social barriers among communities such as Hopetown, Bath Settlement and Bush Lot.  

This outreach follows a consultation exercise with key stakeholders in Georgetown yesterday and is the first of a series of similar such exercises across the country.  Tomorrow the Social Cohesion Ministry will continue the exercise in New Amsterdaam and Skeldon.  The Ministry also will be hosting a Social Cohesion Roundtable in September where all of the inputs garnered at the regional outreaches across the country will be discussed and a holistic plan will be formulated on the way forward.

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