It is true, I googled it, and there is none. There is no other country in the world that has a Ministry (or Minister) of Social Cohesion. And maybe that is so because there is no other country in the world, with so few people, which has this level of social disharmony, necessitating the creation of Ministry of Social Cohesion.
President Granger in his wisdom has gone out on a limb to create a ministry purely on the notion that common sense will prevail and the ministry will bear fruit, and that somehow, sometime, at least before the next general election, there will be some semblance of national cohesion.
What is missing and what will cause the subject Minister, Mrs Amna Ally, many sleepless nights, is putting her finger on the major causative factor/s for the lack of our social cohesion. Is it political? Is it religious? Is it financial? Is it racial? And is it real, or is it perceived?
Then the additional challenge the Minister will have is in selecting her inner core of advisors and technical personnel to begin the arduous task of fostering the cohesion. If she makes any mistakes in the selection and formation of her team, there will be some who will feel ostracized and will want no part of anything cohesive. So she has to select folks, some of whom she knows quite well, still harbour diametrically opposed views to hers and that of her government.
Yet she has to select them; for there could be no real cohesion without first resolving conflicts. And you
Cannot resolve conflict without calling all the opposing sides to the table.
I remember when I was employed by the South Bend School Corporation (South Bend, In) as a Family and Community Specialist, I was paid by the school corporation but I had to be objective in my role, even to the detriment of my employees.
If the child had a valid complaint against the school system, my job and my ethics dictated that I represent the interest of the child. For the Social Cohesion Ministry to be effective, Minister Ally will have to assume such a role. She will have to be prepared to deal with the very real possibility that some of her decisions will run counter to the wishes and agendas of her party. And her colleagues must be made to understand this.
All Guyanese must be made to feel as though they have a stake in the work of this new-found ministry. For indeed, if the ministry caters only to the whims and wishes of the 205,000 of ‘us’, but slights and disdains the desires of the 200,000 of ‘them’, how then can we say that we are cohesive? So the very delicate, balancing, unenviable task the Minister has, is to deliberately and formally reach out to those whom she knows are opposed to her ideologically, yet who are needed to make the discussion a more than symbolic one.
And when once she sits with ‘the other side’, she will have to take off her APNU+AFC hat and put on a Guyanese fedora.
For the work of social cohesion transcends party affiliation and partisan creeds. If the realities of Minister Ally’s agenda do not cause her to simultaneously please and aggravate both sides of the parliamentary aisles, she will not be doing what it really takes to foster the agenda that her inaugural office dictates.
Minister Ally, therefore, has to be magnanimous. She has to be almost apolitical. So as to really begin the work of healing this divided nation, the role she is called to play is almost like that of a political, religious and ethnic ombudsman.
Having left her office, no one must be made to feel that they did not receive satisfaction because of any ascribed, or assented to, identity.
But I remain optimistic, for I believe that resident in our pledge is the antidote of any unfounded, protracted, disunity and divergence. To me, ‘One people, One nation, One destiny’ suggests that with some work, we can move to another level. There are some who for economic and political reasons will try their level best to frustrate this cohesive agenda. However, with a clear, unbiased schema on the part of the ministry, sufficient opportunity will be given to the naysayers for them to eat their words.
If done right, Guyana, with its six races, could become a template and a cookie-cutter pattern on how to heal national divisiveness.
We have been blessed both with the problem and the possible solutions of a multi-racial, multi-religious, multi-political, national construct. As a nation we could be the primus inter pares (first among equals); ours is the opportunity of becoming an international model, if we are able to pull this one off.
Let me hasten, therefore, to take this opportunity to thank Minister Amana Ally for accepting the challenge of this new portfolio. I would also like to thank President Granger for his foresight in envisioning this need. And I pray that the magnanimity of this ministry fosters the needed harmony and cohesion now absent in this our dear land of Guyana.