H.E President David Granger: Thank you, Madam Chairperson. Please be seated. Honourable Prime Minister, Mr. Moses Nagamootoo and Mrs. Sita Nagamootoo; Dr. Barton Scotland, Speaker of the National Assembly; Ministers of the Government; members of the National Assembly; members of the diplomatic corps; Heads of the Disciplined Services; Her worship, the Mayor of the city of Georgetown; special invitees; representatives of the religious community; members of civil society; members of the media; fellow Guyanese: El Niño is over, the rains are here.
Social Cohesion Day is observed today at the start of the celebration of our Golden Jubilee of Independence. It presents the nation with a golden opportunity to discard its divisive political culture and to deepen its commitment to a more inclusive society. Social Cohesion Day is about creating a sense of belonging and combating exclusion. It is based on the belief that citizens share a moral community, which enables them to trust each other.
Social Cohesion Day celebrates and appreciates people’s different backgrounds and their circumstances. Social cohesion recognises that our nation is now, and always will be, multi-religious, multi-ethnic and multi-cultural. Miscegenation is forever and I have recently seen the results of my own DNA test – so I am forever mixed.
Our diversity is an asset, not a liability. We are proud to belong to a society of many faiths. We are proud of the tapestry of ethnicity. We are proud to possess the rich flora and fauna. We cherish our varied landscape.
Social cohesion respects these differences, the differences between various social groups. It acknowledges however, that if left unattended, those differences could degenerate into distrust and could weaken people’s sense of belonging.
Social cohesion can prevent social instability, arising from social, economic, political and class divisions between groups; it can prevent those differences from festering.
Social cohesion can create an environment in which accords and agreements, beliefs and laws, are respected and enforced and society is not allowed to degenerate into distrust, into disharmony and, worst of all, into disorder.
Social cohesion can help to build cooperative relationships at all levels of our society – among our religious and ethnic groups, among political parties, among our communities, neighbourhoods and regions.
Our generation, therefore, ladies and gentlemen, has an obligation at this celebration of our independence jubilee. We have an obligation to repair past damage, to restore trust and to rebuild the bases of a moral community. These will enable people to co-exist and to cooperate with each other.
We can construct a more cohesive society by doing more to eliminate extreme poverty; by doing more to eradicate the worst forms of inequality, including gender inequality; by doing more to ensure equal access to education for everyone; by doing more to enable greater participation and inclusion at the political level through regular, general and regional and municipal local government elections; by doing more to enforce employment and anti-discrimination laws, which ensure the health, happiness and safety of our women, of our working people, of our girl children and our infants.
Social cohesion, ladies and gentlemen, is about fostering greater integration in our nation. Integration is intended to create a sense of belonging; it is intended to give recognition to all groups and to allow them to freely practice their culture. Integration expands the space for diversity.
Ladies and gentlemen, Social cohesion does not require people to abandon their cultural practices and to adopt another culture. It accords greater recognition to every ethnic group; it encourages the promotion of their practices. Everyone will feel more accepted and, thus, will be endued with a greater sense of belonging in this great nation.
Today, Social Cohesion Day, I congratulate you, the citizens of Guyana and pray that God may bless you all.