President Jagdeo says in East Berbice…
Govt. looking to religious leaders to help transform Guyana
--- Masjid among 400 youth initiative projects From Nivedta Kowlessar in Region 6.
Guyana Chronicle
July 21, 2003

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President Bharrat Jagdeo has said that he will “stand firmly” against injustices meted out to Muslims, vilified through distortions of their religion.

He urged a gathering of Muslims in Region Six (East Berbice/Corentyne) over the weekend, to create greater awareness among Non-Muslims about such distortions which are causing the religions to be distorted.

“Many politicians do not make distinctions between the religion and terrorists,” the President said, adding this can be done through the $9 million Jama Masjid Youth Club he opened at Port Mourant late Saturday afternoon.

Muslims have been unfairly singled out since the September 2002 Terrorist attack on the United States, blamed on the Islamic fundamentalist group, al Qaeda.

President Jagdeo said institutions such as the Masjid Club, built through the President’s Youth Choice Initiative (PYCI), must try to educate the world about the differences.

“I hope the halls [of this club] are not just used to propagate Islam, but greater awareness of the meaning of religion,” he told the packed Port Mourant Islamic Mosque which is running the facility.

Stating that there is a separation between Religion and the State in Guyana, the President said Government believed in looking to religious leaders for guidance to transform society for the better.

There is need to build compassion he added, noting that he was a staunch admirer of charitable work by Muslims around the country.

The President called for youths to get more rounded education like that taught at the Club which has a Computer Lab; Library and Sports Facilities.

It was one of three President‘s Youth Choice Initiative Projects the President commissioned during a hectic weekend schedule in Region Six.

Earlier, he opened an “impressive” $7M Youth Centre at Rose Hall where computer, Music, Arts and Craft, as well as Secondary and Primary Education Classes are taught. It also conducts anti-drugs, HIV/AIDS campaign and a vibrant sports programme that has produced national cricketers.

Club Secretary, Mr. Hilbert Foster said youths raised $15M to transform it from a once swampy environment. With the facility now constructed under the PYCI, a further $1.5 M was generated for furnishing it , with contributions from the private sector.

President Bharrat Jagdeo urged the expansion of youths, noting that he was seeking the help of Churches to teach character building and tolerance necessary for a multi-ethnic society. He said education is the method of overcoming racial prejudices, and represents an investment in the future, and the Government will continue to create PYCI-type facilities which serve to bring people together,

And in a twilight opening of a $400,000 Pavilion and Sports Club at Crabwood Creek, the president offered an additional $1.5 M to help expand services, especially to women who need more activities in rural communities.

Presidential Advisor on Empowerment, Odingo Lumumba, who manages the PYCI, said the Government has laid a “foundation” for communities across the country with projects (some 400 in all), and residents must care and manage them efficiently.

Lumumba said 95 per cent of the facilities were constructed within 3-6 months, and attributed such progress in Region Six, to “resolute” work by youth leaders.

He also praised the efficiency of the PYCI, Project Coordinators - Ms. Allison Sim and other recipients of gifts at Saturday’s ceremony. President Jagdeo and Lumumba received beautifully crafted pieces from residents grateful for the facility.

Region Six Chairman, Kumkarran Ramdass was among regional officials participating in the opening.