Georgetown, Guyana – (December 10, 2018) Minister of State, Mr. Joseph Harmon, on Sunday, urged the residents of Mabaruma, Barima- Waini (Region One) and surrounding communities to hold public officials, inclusive of those in Regional and Neighbourhood Democratic Councils (RDC/NDCs) accountable.

Public officials, the Minister stated have been elected to serve and citizens must, therefore, demand that their interests and those of the community are addressed.

Minister Harmon was at the time speaking at a community meeting held at the Mabaruma Primary School, where he addressed concerns raised by residents.

He told residents that Central Government will continue to play its part in ensuring that infrastructural, social and other needs are met but noted that the Regional and Neighbourhood Democratic Councils must also share in this responsibility.

The Minister of State said too that community leaders and regional and local officials must understand their roles and endeavour to function efficiently. He posited that citizens suffer the most when leaders become complacent and do not serve in the best interests of those who elected them.

“Our community leaders must face the community. If you cannot talk to your people and do things for them then they will not respect you or listen to you. You have to see people and see what they need. As a leader, you need to get on the ground and relate to people so that you can understand what is taking place. It is always important to come on the ground and get in touch with the people, with their feelings, with their understandings and what needs to be done,” Minister Harmon said.

Several residents raised concerns about Government run programmes such as the Sustainable Livelihoods and Entrepreneurial Development [SLED] Project, community training and other capacity building opportunities, which they say benefit only one section of the community.

To this end, Minister Harmon assured the aggrieved residents that the Ministries of Social Protection and Public Health along with other agencies will be consulted on the approach used to select candidates for programmes and initiatives. He made it clear that all must benefit from opportunities made available by the government.

“I am going to engage Minister Amna Ally to ensure that we can address this problem. As residents too, you have a responsibility to ensure that you read the newspapers and gather information on what is taking place and going to take place so that you can take advantage of those opportunities,” he said.

Meanwhile, one resident, Mr. Robert Jessemy, who owns a small furniture workshop, said he would like to employ 20 youth to reduce unemployment in the community. However, thus far he has not been successful in accessing funds to expand his business.

In response to Mr. Jessemy’s challenge, Minister Harmon has assured that the needed resources will be provided and a team from his office will visit next week to begin preparations.

“I am going to hold you to that commitment that you are going to provide jobs for our young people. I am going to support you so that you can provide opportunities for others. You can hold me to that,” Minister Harmon said much to the support of the residents.

Additionally, the Minister of State spoke of President David Granger’s Frontline Village Policy that was announced during his visit to Whitewater, also in Region One, earlier this year. The policy speaks to the establishment of military patrol bases and heightened 24-hour security by the Guyana Defence Force (GDF) and the Guyana Police Force (GPF).

As such, Minister Harmon urged the residents to continue being vigilant as the country’s borders are expansive.

“I am here and I can see so many changes since this Government has come into office. I see better roads; a better administration of this township and I cannot believe that so many things have happened in Region One in such a short time. This Government is going to chart a course where we are not just going to take the town of Mabaruma [forward] but this entire region and you also have a role. You are close to the border so therefore whatever happens in the country next door has an impact on what happens in this region. I want you to embrace the Frontline Policy that has been outlined by the President and you are the eyes and ears of the State in these communities. If things happen, you are the first eyes and ears on the ground,” he said.

Minister Harmon committed to having more ministerial visits at the conclusion of deliberations on Budget 2019.

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