Georgetown, Guyana – (April 18, 2016) In celebration of Guyana’s 50th Independence anniversary, the Ministry of Social Cohesion has earmarked May 11, the anniversary of the 2015 General and Regional Elections, as ‘Social Cohesion Day’, which will kick off with an inter-religious prayer ceremony and culminate with a musical stage performance at the National Cultural Centre. This announcement was made by Minister of Social Cohesion, Ms. Amna Ally during a press conference at the Ministry of the Presidency, earlier today.

This event will capture significant aspects of Guyana’s history such as colonialism, the struggle for independence and the post-independence period. Minister Ally is urging citizens of the other regions to host similar commemorative events in the month of May.

During the briefing, the Minister gave a detailed update on the work that her Ministry has done and revealed plans are in the pipelines. She said that a strategic plan is expected to be completed within the next five months. In the interim however, the Ministry has a document, which guides its work.

In January, the Social Cohesion Ministry collaborated with the Institute of Applied Science and Technology (IAST) and the Ministry of Indigenous Peoples’ Affairs to provide technical support for micro-enterprise development in Region Nine. Minister Ally noted that economic inclusion is an integral aspect of social cohesion.

At the same time, the Ministry continues to engage citizens from all sections of society in discussions on how social cohesion can be fostered and promoted in Guyana. So far, discussions have been held with youths at the Kuru Kuru Training centre, with representatives from the Muslim and Christian communities and residents in various areas.

“I recognise that the work of the Ministry would be greatly enhanced if we are able to bring small groups of key stakeholders together for us to have conversations…the Ministry is attempting to establish core groups after these conversations, so that stakeholders can take ownership and responsibility for keeping their respective groups engaged and active in the social cohesion process with us,” Minister Ally said.

Additionally, the Ministry will be seeking to involve persons in the media and entertainment fraternities with a view of exploring ways in which it can work with them to foster social cohesion.

The Ministry has also established a committee comprising senior officials from the Ministries of Education, Indigenous Peoples’ Affairs, Social Protection, Communities and the Department of Culture, Youth and Sport with the aim of assisting with its policy direction. This committee is chaired by Dr. Michael Scott from the University of Guyana.

“People want social cohesion in Guyana, they are asking questions and they want to know how they can come on board… Guyanese want to see a unified country,” Minister Ally said.

The Minister also took the opportunity to debunk claims made by the political Opposition that the Government’s “Boats, Buses and Bicycles plus Breakfast and Books” (‘Five Bs’) programme, which her Ministry if integrally involved in coordinating, is only benefitting children of Coalition party supporters, a claim she dismissed as misguided.

Minister Ally made it clear that wherever shoes, bicycles or other items were distributed, her only input had been to request a list of names of the recipients from the Ministry of Education and, in the case of the Upper Takutu-Upper Essequibo (Region Nine), the St. Ignatius Primary School.

“The Ministry is cognisant of its role in working towards improving the well-being of all its members, fighting exclusion and marginalisation, creating a sense of belonging, promoting trust and offering all Guyanese opportunities for upward mobility,” Minister Ally said, at a press briefing giving an update on her work at the Ministry of the Presidency.

She said that while persons are reportedly being encouraged to reject the initiative at various “bottom house” meetings, parents across the country see the merit of the programme and it has been successfully rolled out and welcomed in all of the regions. To date, the Ministry has provided six boats, nine buses and over 300 bicycles.

”If we are able to assist families by providing the means for children to get to school, whether it is by boat, bus or bicycle, we would be making a tangible contribution to the children’s education and by extension, the development of Guyana,” the Minister said.

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