I recall when various communities (religious, trade unions, ethnic, youth, etc) were invited to a conference at the Arthur Chung Convention Center (ACCC) last year on April 26 as part of the rebirth of the Ethnic Relations Commission (ERC), the then Minister of Health, Dr George Norton made a presentation which was impressive in terms of a vision for humanity.
Following the opening ceremony, the Minister had responsibility for the cluster of the Islamic Group. In this session, yet again the words he used and the energy that he exuded demonstrated a knack for social communication and integrative skills.
In our cluster, I had mentioned that if I was nominated once more (since I was nominated in early 2016), I would pursue an agenda of meeting and speaking with persons from the most remote areas, and reaching out to peoples of all the different ethnicities and religions. Subsequent to my statement, one particular Muslim member on behalf of a large Islamic organization (not the CIOG) stated that “Hindus have Hindus attending to Hindus, Christians have Christians attending to Christians, and we must have Muslims attending to Muslims.” In a state of shock, I let the individual know that when it comes to the ERC, clusters and preferences must cease to exist as it is a constitutional body which must represent the rights of all Guyanese. The gentleman continued to argue his point assiduously. Dr Norton intervened and stated very emphatically but eloquently that my points were correct and that a Commissioner to the ERC when elected by a cluster must represent all factions in society. The voice of the Minister touched my heart as it did many others, and I saw a deep care in him for this nation and I could see in his eyes a unique devotion for unity in Guyana.
On the 9th January, 2017 in a meeting with Minister Norton, he indicated his preference for one-on-one planned meetings. In my opinion it was a good move to meet with the elected nominees in such a manner that showed his personality. He relayed to me that by doing this, he could see those who were genuine cohesionists as against those who were opportunists. I complimented him for seeing persons via one-on-one scheduled meetings, as it was a good start and confirmed his humility as he was seeking advice on how to proceed.
Since his transfer to Social Cohesion, Minister Norton has indicated that this is not his field of expertise as he had been in the medical field all his professional life. However, with my recent experience and from what I knew before, he has been practising social cohesion all along. Further, his statement on the government’s actions to terminate the lease for Red House must be lauded. It is obvious that such a comment coming from a senior official of the governing party will attract criticism, and many will seek to embarrass him both privately and publicly. For this move, the Minister must be acknowledged. It takes guts to be a Minister of Social Cohesion as it takes guts to make such statements.
I believe that there is too much hate that is being peddled by the political powerhouses in this country. Once a group of people (governmental or non-governmental) are involved in socially cohesive activities, yours truly and my partner and colleague, General Secretary of the Universal Peace Federation Guyana, Rev Ronald McGarrell promise to work to create community right away, as community can lead to unity as a work in progress. I call on the government, the opposition, those with political adherences, the private sector, civil society and all my brothers and sisters belonging to this blessed land to please remember, Guyana first, ambition and power later.
Hajji Roshan Khan