Social Cohesion Day: Celebration of our Diversity – Remarks By the Hon. Moses V Nagamootoo, Prime Minister & First Vice President Of the Cooperative Republic of Guyana, National Cultural Centre, Homestretch Avenue, Georgetown, Thursday, May 11, 2017
I feel as if today were a national holiday. The songs, recitation of poetry, dance and the skit, have temporally placed me in particular, and I am sure, my wife Sita, in a frame of mind that we felt that we should go home and just relax and enjoy the tranquility and peace that was generated this morning. For that I would like to thank Minister George Norton and his Ministry of Social Cohesion and all those who work with them to present a short but sweet programme.
Social Cohesion Day, as you were told, started just two years ago and it is perhaps an event that is still in diaper and is still hardly walking. But you can see the vibrancy of this event as we celebrate the second such day. And I believe in these short two years that the event is catching on and is gaining national significance.
It ought to be because we are a nation longing to come together, to work together, to play together, to enjoy life together, to share the bountiful promises of the life that is a part of Guyana.
We have one patrimony, one nation, one country, one nationality. And in the effort to bind us all into oneness that social cohesion takes this special role. I was very honoured to share in Harmony Village earlier this year, and on that occasion, I can tell you, having seen the display on stage, having seen the diversity in religious persuasion and faith, harmoniously blending on one stage in the open in the middle of our city. For the first time that I felt so elated and spontaneously I was moved to sing. And I believe that if a social cohesion event could move me to sing in the open, you also can be motivated to sing one song; is a song that is a tribute to our Motherland, Guyana, and to our people – one people.
Just two years ago our country held national elections – two years ago, today, on the 11th May. There might be nothing unusual about that elections nor of previous elections held in Guyana. Nothing unusual because after every election this country has seen signs of division, signs of disaffection, signs of disunity. These aftermaths of elections seeping into our daily lives affect our families and affect our children, and politics of division would haunt us until the next cycle of elections.
Even now as I speak with you there are some who believe that the elections of 2015, that have brought for the first time in Guyana, a coalition of six diverse parties to form national government, that those elections were phony. Or so it is being alleged, that those elections were rigged; and that those elections did not in fact elect a national government by the choice of people, by the decision of people.
So I wish to compliment His Excellency, President David Granger, for putting forward as soon as we entered government that there should be a Ministry of Social Cohesion. He advised that we should have a policy driven by an institution to bring our people together so that they are able to put quickly behind them political divisions. And when political divisions assume other forms such as ethnic suspicion and ethnic conflicts, we need to have an institution that would be like a healing balm over our wounded soul.
And therefore social cohesion as an institution, as a ministry, has a cardinal role to play in Guyana. It is the glue that would bring us together. It is the invitation that we all have a role to play on a common stage irrespective of our differences, irrespective of our political persuasion.
Social cohesion is not an invitation for you to compromise on principles or compromise on your belief. It is an invitation for you to share your principles, to share your beliefs so that we understand them and know our difference and our diversity. Our differences are our strength and our diversity is our strength. It is who we are.
When social cohesion was launched President David Granger gave the guiding definition and I could not today say it better than he has done when he told us that “social cohesion 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.” He went on to say that Social Cohesion Day, a day like today, “celebrates and appreciates people’s different backgrounds and circumstances. Social cohesion recognizes that our nation is now and will always be multi religious, multi ethnic and multi-cultural.”
I heard him say at another event, “When we are mixed, we are mixed for life.” And this is a great country Guyana, with a great mixture of people of all ethnicities and this unique mixture is and must be our blessing. When the world is being pulled apart by social conflicts based on religion and ethnicity, and tribalism and, at most times, politics, we in Guyana enjoy an existence that is not divisive at least not openly, conflictual or confrontational. And it must be a blessing for this country, Guyana, that in spite of the campaign to pull us apart that we can celebrate today, for the second year after the May 11 elections, two years ago, that we can celebrate our strength, we can celebrate our courage, we can celebrate our own choice that we should be together rather than apart.
I want to also quote President Granger in his definition when he says, “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 within our country. We are proud to possess the rich flora and fauna and we cherish our varied landscape.”
So today it gives me great pleasure to be among you to celebrate this day of National Cohesion. I wish that when we leave here that this should not be a once per year event. National Cohesion and Social Cohesion must become part and parcel of our everyday choice that we must live with each other; we must be part and parcel of each other’s life and that we can move our country forward as one nation towards, one destiny.
Thank you very much for coming out in your large numbers here today. And I want to thank you in advance that you keep it this way forward, that this country is best and strongest when it is cohesive, when it is united. And that is how Guyana will prosper, as country where our people enjoy our common nationality as a Guyanese people.