Georgetown, Guyana – (October 12, 2015) Minister of Social Cohesion, Amna Ally on Saturday, took the message of social cohesion to Region Nine (Upper Takutu – Upper Essequibo) telling those present that the time has come for all Guyanese to work to achieve national unity and togetherness.

Even as she shared the message of social cohesion, Minister Ally hinted at several projects, which will be undertaken and supported by her ministry in the coming months, to improve the economic and social landscape of the region.

“You are integral to social cohesion in Guyana. This government is interested in national unity, in working together for the development of you, your community and your country. I have great interest in this region. I want to begin my projects in Region Nine. Not because you live in the Rupununi means you must enjoy the things the persons in the coastland enjoy,” the Minister of Social Cohesion said.

To this end, she disclosed that one of the projects, scheduled to begin in early November, would be implemented in collaboration with the Institute of Applied Science and Technology (IAST), which will work with the farmers, producers and manufacturers in the Region 9 area to develop their products, marketing strategies, and proper labeling methods.

Addressing a large gathering at Lethem, Minister Ally noted that the purpose of the activity was to involve citizens at the community level in a national conversation on the promotion of togetherness and national unity. This, she explained, was one of the primary mandates of her Ministerial post.

“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.

As she outlined her plan for the achievement of cohesiveness in the country, she reiterated that the work must not be left solely on Government, but citizens have a responsibility to support the fulfillment of the mandate set out.

“You have the clear responsibility to foster unity among diverse populations and create a vision for a common future that pivots on the acceptance of differences with a view to harvesting the strengths that are inherent in diverse societies… You can make a positive change in our country… We recognise that behavioural change is a pillar of reconciliation in this country and we must all contribute to achieving the good life that we all want right here in Guyana,” she said.

Minister Ally said that social cohesion is desperately needed for the region and the country to develop and reach its potential. To this end, Minister Ally said that the new administration’s priority and thrust at this time, was to ensure that the lives of all Guyanese, especially those in the hinterland areas, are vastly improved.

“It is about you; about your family, your community. You must feel as if you are included. It is not we or them; it is about us as a people. Let us begin to see the development of Guyana as our development. This is what social cohesion is based on and on behalf of the government we want to make this a reality for Guyana,” she said.

The Minister of Social cohesion highlighted President David Granger’s ten point plan for the Hinterland Regions, which her Ministry will assist in executing.

These will include introducing a Hinterland Education Support Programme, the Hinterland Employment and Youth Service, the development of the highway between Lethem and Linden and also the development of better roads and ports, the resolution of land title issues through the Hinterland and Indigenous Peoples Lands Commission and the Hinterland Language, Cultural and Sport Service.

“The Ministry will be an active participant in executing these plans. Our inputs will be in the form of project activities; large and small scale. They will be undertaken based on needs of the people and the community. We can undertake projects to train young people; trainings to improve economic standing, cultural programmes and sport development so that these can be used to establish national bonds. Division must be a thing of the past in Guyana and anything that we can do to crush the walls of separation, we will do,” Minister Ally assured the residents of Region Nine.

In the meantime, residents welcomed the exercise in the Region and pointed out ways in which citizens can become involved in the fulfillment of the social cohesion mandate, even as they raised several concerns, which the Minister promised to look into.

One resident, in welcoming the move, posited that there was a need for problem solving training in the regions, since social cohesion cannot be fostered without this.

“This is welcome move. This country is indeed divided and we cannot put our heads in the sand and say it is not. The fact that there is such a ministry says that there is hope that each and every one of us can come together. However, we must have regular meetings in our communities and mediation programmes to tackle this. It seems that we don’t know how to discuss. If our ideas are not in line with others, we take it personally. It should not be. We should be leaders and create a balance and everyone’s view is taken into consideration and respected,” she said.

She too encouraged the gathering to cast aside the campaigning and to ensure that the government of the day is respected and given its due.

“Social cohesion is not only about race. This is also about politics. We should respect the government, whether we like it or not. Let us put our political affiliations aside and work for a better Guyana,” the woman said.

Also present at the meeting were Vice President and Minister of the Indigenous Peoples’ Affairs, Sydney Allicock, Ministerial Advisor at the Ministry of Indigenous Peoples’ Affairs, Mervyn Williams, Project Officer, Ministry of Social Cohesion, Sharon Patterson and other regional representatives.

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