Stakeholders who attended the Regional Consultation for Social Cohesion Strategic Plan on Tuesday, highlighted that one of the critical issues degrading social cohesion in Guyana is the racially charged elections period the country experiences every five years.
The consultation held at the Carifesta Sports Complex and organised by the Ministry of Social Cohesion targeted representatives from Regional Democratic Councils, Neighbourhood Democratic Councils, Municipal officials, Cultural Organisations and a cross section of other participants.
A common theme coming out of the group discussions was the influence of racial politics stymieing community and national development. One of the presenters said that within the communities, the racial group to which leaders belong tend to dominate the decision-making processes and consequently stand a better chance to benefit from any communal intervention.
It was noted, too, that relationships between residents are positive until National and Regional Elections take centre stage. Participants provided personal experiences whereby persons of other races ended friendships and resorted to verbal abuse based on racial and political backgrounds. Those present at the event also called for the end of partisan politics to remedy this issue.
The discussion on this issue went further to include the Local Government Elections. Persons supported the view that political parties should play a part in the LGE format since the style of politics practised during the national leg is transferred to the lower level.
In addition, the involvement of political parties in the LGE is blamed for putting independent candidates at a disadvantage, since usually, they would not have access to the same degree of physical and financial resources.
To address these problems, it was posited that authorities need to start among the youthful population. Doing this would mean targeting children and teenagers teaching them about the need for cohesion regardless of racial, political and economic disposition.
It is the intention that by 2021 Guyana should see a clear improvement in relations and interactions among the various ethnic and race groups in the country. Also, it is expected that a mutually positive appreciation of the cultural diversity of different groups at the national and community levels would emerge.
The strategic plan was inspired by the recognition of Guyana as a relatively poor and ethnically diverse country. According to Dr. Theo Gittens, consultant for the Ministry, Guyana has suffered years of social tensions particularly at elections times.
During his presentation, he reminded the gathering that the nation’s politics, economics and security situation as a whole show that social cohesion in Guyana is challenged.
He added that Guyana experienced a period of insecurity during the 1960s when race riots occurred. It has since endured electoral violence and post-electoral tensions.
He said that there have been accusations from all race groups and the persistent perception that discrimination on the basis of race and ethnicity exists in local communities, in economic relations, in the exercise of power by political parties, and in the way government functions to favour some groups and to exclude others.
Tuesday marked the seventh of 28 planned consultations by the Ministry towards preparing a Five Year Strategic Plan (2017 to 2021) for promoting and enhancing social cohesion in Guyana.
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