Georgetown, Guyana – (May 18, 2018) Minister of State, Mr. Joseph Harmon, today, said that the Government of Guyana is committed to the revival of the cooperative movement and cooperative societies across the country as it presents many opportunities not only for economic growth and development but cooperation and social cohesion.

The Minister was at the time delivering the feature address at the commissioning of a new office and training centre for the Essequibo/Pomeroon Regional Cooperative Union Limited (EPRCUL) at Anna Regina, earlier today.

While the EPRCUL was established in 1964, about three years ago a dispute arose over the encroachment of land and property belonging to the Union by Mr. Ganesh Jaigobin, a businessman of Essequibo as a result of a blunder by the Guyana Lands and Surveys Commission (GLSC) at that time. The Jaigobins were granted documentation by the Commission, which indicated that they were granted a 20 years lease on State lands on which the training centre of the Union was located at that time. After the matter arose, it was brought to the attention of President David Granger when he was Opposition Leader, who appointed a special committee chaired by Mr. Ronald Backer to investigate and proffer a solution.

After the new Government took office in 2015, the matter continued until an amicable solution was arrived at, whereby the Jaigobins agreed to assume responsibility for all the costs associated with the purchase, clearing and development of the land, construction of the building in keeping with recommendations from the Union, construction of the fences and the works being completed by a mutually accepted contractor within an agreed time frame.

Minister Harmon, in his remarks, said that under the last administration, there was an attempt to decertify many Cooperative groups so that the assets, which those Coop Societies had, could have been handed over to friends and relatives of the regime. However, the current administration, he said, is committed to supporting and helping Cooperative Societies to grow as it believes that they can make significant contributions to the country.

“Our Government is committed to the revival of the cooperative movement. Our history indicates that most of our people as individual groups have built communities and developed them through community organisations and cooperation. These are the bedrocks of cooperatives. I am also convinced that the fostering of the cooperative spirit is a key element in our quest to achieve social cohesion in our society. They will also instil in our people, a higher sense of responsibility especially with regard to the care and use of public property. In addition, I am of the view that the Cooperative movement and cooperatives can contribute meaningfully to the Government’s pursuit of the Green State Development Strategy to propel Guyana onto a path of sustainable and accelerated development through a ‘green’ state,” he said.

Noting that they have now been given a new lease of life, Minister Harmon urged the EPRCUL to ramp up its work in boosting its membership and ensuring that it leaves its footprints across the Essequibo Coast.

“I have been assured by both the national and regional authorities that this will provide a launching pad for the revitalisation of the cooperative movement and for cooperative societies in Region Two. I would like for the Union to seize this opportunity to initiate an aggressive programme to resuscitate its members and to establish new societies in many areas of endeavours to accelerate the economic development of region two. I wish to note that the rebirth and revitalisation of the cooperatives is something, to which the Government gives its active and aggressive support,” the Minister of State said.

Meanwhile, Minister within the Ministry of Social Protection with responsibility for Labour, Mr. Keith Scott, echoed similar sentiments, noting that the Government will do whatever it takes to not only rekindle the spirit of cooperatives but also ensure that they remain viable and sustainable.

“We want to bring back the cooperative spirit and to ensure that you are empowered better than you would have been in the past. Today is the rebirth of cooperatives in this region. It is not only a rebirth but the beginning of a new growth. This is a spirit of cooperation. It is a spirit you must now understand and trust. You must trust each other and work with each other. Government is committed to this venture…It must become a pillar of economic development in Guyana. I am prepared to come here and any part of Guyana that requires my assistance to develop coops, I will always make myself available,” Minister Scott said.

Chairman of Pomeroon-Supenaam (Region Two), Mr. Devanand Ramdatt, in his brief remarks, said that the regional administration is pleased that despite the challenges and weaknesses in the matter, there was a peaceful resolution. This, he said, is an ideal component of public private partnership. Mr. Ramdatt said that the facility must now serve as a monument of what can be achieved if cooperation is present.

“We will all agree that while we will all enjoy a new physical infrastructure, it is equally important that we complement what is new. We must ensure that the objectives set out by the Cooperative can be achieved in the best interest of all of our people. I believe that a united people, that if we come together as a people with one common objective and have genuine development for our society and for all of our people in the most accountable and transparent ways, then one of the avenues we can pursue is to have Cooperatives,” he said.

Mr. Jaigobin expressed his gratitude to the Government of the intervention as he noted that it is his hope that the new building will be used to mould the minds of the youth, who will take over the reins of nation building.

Secretary of the Union, Mr. Vincent Collins also echoed these sentiments as he noted that the EPRCUL will be working to restore Cooperative Societies to the glory days it once enjoyed.

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