Hundreds gathered at the Square of the Revolution from as early as 8 yesterday morning to meet Minister of State Joseph Harmon on problems they were experiencing.
The inaugural `Public Day’ from 9 am to 1 pm was also graced by President David Granger.
When Stabroek News visited, around 200 persons were registered and sitting patiently as they went up to speak to representatives from each of the departments at the Ministry of the Presidency or to Harmon himself. Harmon relayed to the press that the event was organized for the public to be given the opportunity to raise concerns with the Ministry of Presidency in keeping with President Granger’s view that all Ministers should go out and interact with the public.
“You know there are several departments in the Ministry of the Presidency like the Department of Public Service, Citizenship, Social Cohesion and several others,” he said, pointing out that officers from all of the departments are present to listen to issues that members of the public have and to make recommendations.
“As you know we came into government about 7 months ago and we had a lot of things to do. A lot of government work to do and so sometimes when the public come to see us they encounter problems like the way they are dressed and that they can’t get in,” he added, stating the meeting was restriction free so as to accommodate all members of the public. He said that the event would not only encompass the Ministry of Presidency but will be a monthly event that will cover all the Ministries.
He said some of the issues that were raised with him varied from things that fell under his Ministry and things that didn’t.
“People talk about house lots, medical issues, importing goods and can’t get it cleared,” he said, stating that if the matter does not concern his Ministry they would arrange a meeting with the persons and the appropriate Ministry.
The size of the gathering meant that there was some waiting time before the minister could be met. “I was here for about 45 minutes before I got to speak to the Minister,” Heston Bostwick told Stabroek News yesterday. He said that while he does have a particular problem as he came on behalf of his community, what he discussed with Harmon was very much welcomed as he received a positive response.
“It’s left to the active part to be forthcoming and I believe that there will be success. I think there needs to be more events like this and it should not be limited to Georgetown alone to facilitate people from other regions that would not be able to make it”.
Another concerned citizen also lauded the opportunity to be able to address his issues with the Minister. “It’s good that we could come here and while we gotto wait, which is understandable because they got a lot of people here, you get to talk to them directly. You don’t have to study dress code and all that nonsense,” he said.
Another related that while the initiative was excellent, it shouldn’t be all show and actions should be clearly seen.
“Yeah you can come out here and address the public and talk to them about their issues but what do you do after that? We need to see these, if not all, issues be addressed,” he stated, reasoning that such was the sole purpose of the event.
Harmon stated that after the issues are complied, a committee would look at them to decide what the next step would be.
A Ministry of the Presidency statement yesterday said that over 300 people showed up during the event.
It quoted President Granger as saying “A year ago I was on the streets picketing what was then Office of the President, calling for Local Government elections, but today you are on the streets solving problems. What a difference a year makes and we are here to solve your problems”.
He added “What we are doing here today is what we promised to do last year and the year before; that is, being the government of the people. We want to solve your problems, we don’t have a lot of money, you know the situation that we found with sugar, you know the situation we found with our borders, the situation we found with the city, you know the situation that we found with the economy, but what we are trying to do is solve the problems that are affecting individuals…”