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De Coteau on new Diversity Ministry: We will not stir up racial tension
New Minister of National Diversity and Social Integration Clifton De Coteau has assured that his ministry will not stir up any racial tension but will bring diverse and unique cultures together. The ministry’s mission is to champion diversity and inclusion, and help shape the evolving character of the nation through policy measures and institutional reforms.
According to De Coteau, they intend to “use heritage to build a legacy of true and strong inclusiveness.” One of his ministry’s “new directives” is to set up a council for “the development of an integration and national identity policy.” He did not elaborate on the “new directive.”
He said T&T had been disaggregated for far too long and the creation of the ministry was a direct and cognisant effort of Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar to ensure the country was cultivating and preserving national diversification and social integration. The Moruga/Tableland MP was promoted by Persad-Bissessar to head the new ministry, having served as Minister in the Ministry of Education since the People’s Partnership assumed office in May 2010.
De Coteau was unavailable for a face-to-face interview last week but agreed to answer questions via e-mail. He said, “Similar to the economic term of diversification, this ministry will harness on the ‘colourfulness’ of our nation. We affirm our diversity and variety and now we are nationalising on it to the benefit of all citizens. By nationalising, we mean that we are bringing the management of this diversity under the ownership of the Government.”
He said it could no longer be part responsibilities of various ministries. The ministry’s base is at the JOBCO building, 51-55 Frederick Street, Port-of-Spain and is expected to become operational this week, the minister said. Jacinta Bailey-Sobers is the permanent secretary. He added the ministry’s staffing requirements will be based on the Gazetted Schedule of its mandate and that its current financial needs will be met by the Ministry of Arts and Multiculturalism.
Social integration ministry is common in other parts of the world The ministry is new to T&T but not to other countries. In Mauritius, the vision of the Ministry of Social Integration and Economic Empowerment is to lead to the creation of an inclusive and more equitable society through greater social justice and sustainable human development.
In Denmark, the Ministry of Social Affairs and Integration is responsible for the central administration of the Danish social security and benefits system. The ministry attends to Denmark’s social policy co-operation with other nations, for instance the conclusion of agreements in the social security area.
The vision of the Ministry of National Languages and Social Integration in Sri Lanka is for a harmonious Sri Lankan nation united in diversity. The ministry’s mission is formulating policies, providing guidance and facilitating full implementation of the Official Languages Policy and the building of a strong inclusive Sri Lanka.
A resource and an advocate for inclusion
De Coteau said his ministry’s vision is to be both a resource and an advocate for the value of diversity and inclusion. He said, “The ministry serves as the umbrella organisation to support our state-wide and regional affiliates which foster an understanding of diversity and inclusion as a dynamic strategy business success and community wellbeing through various initiatives.”
The ministry will now oversee matters such as citizen facilitation; civil society enhancement; national heroes; protocols of the State; ecclesiastical affairs, museums; National Trust; archives and establishing a council for the development of an integration and national identity policy.
The first six areas were previously under the Office of the Prime Minister, while the museums and the Trust were part of the Ministry of Arts and Multiculturalism. De Coteau said, “The core functions of the aforementioned ministries to which the newly assigned functions once belonged do not allow for their optimum allocation of resources, time, effort, money and even dedication. “It took the foresight of the Prime Minister to create this new ministry where nothing else matters, expect for the fact that you are a citizen of the country.”
Nationals to benefit through citizen facilitation
Citizen facilitation, De Coteau explained, is expected to facilitate a more comfortable interaction between citizens and the Government, He said it was anticipated that the experience between the two would be more pleasant and satisfying. De Coteau said, “The aim of citizen facilitation is to lay a foundation for e-Governance and create visible impact in the lives of people.”
He said the integrated citizen facilitation is an approach in the direction of making citizen-Government interaction faster, smoother and transparent. He said that would be achieved through public consultations. The minister said it is proposed that a Web site and e-mail will be set up in order to foster communication between the ministry and all its stakeholders. De Coteau also said he will be working closely with the Inter-Religious Organisation.
Challenges ahead, but ministry will be successful
De Coteau, a former school principal and school supervisor, also served as chairman on several cultural committees and played key roles in organisation. He started his political career in 2003. While he is cognisant that challenges may lie ahead, he said he was convinced that he and Embau Moheni, minister in the new ministry, along with his staff will keep the ministry’s vision in mind to ensure its success and that the population can benefit.
De Coteau said the ministry was created as a pioneer of the aspects of patriotism, diversity, unity, nationalism, common values and shared ambitions of the T&T citizenry. “The ministry has been mandated to encourage increased focus of how we as Trinbagonians identify ourselves as individuals and in the global context, how we harness our patriotism and love for country and concentrate our combined energy into nation building.”
He said he was deeply honoured to be the minister and that it seemed as though his professional career, networking affiliations, community associations and his personal philosophy on life in T&T had finally converged to this point, “and it all makes sense right now.”
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