09 September 2010

Guyana Support to Indigenous Communities

Indigenous communities to receive US$8M from LCDS revenue this year

Michelle Gonsalves
Guyana Chronicle

Gala launch to Amerindian Heritage month 2010

GUYANA’S indigenous communities will receive US$8 million out of the US$30 million to be received from the Low Carbon Development Strategy (LCDS) revenue this year, according to President Bharrat Jagdeo.

Speaking at the launch of Amerindian Heritage Month, at a ceremony hosted at the Amerindian Village, National Exhibition Centre in Sophia, the President said the funds will be used for village development. Citing transformative economic activities where young people can stay in the village and earn a decent living as well as food security, he said every village is currently working on their own plan according to a template sent out by the Ministry of Amerindian Affairs.

Responding to gripes about the money not being properly spent, the President said the money will be budgeted and will have the strongest fiduciary safeguards that can be audited anywhere in the world.
President Bharrat Jagdeo receives a traditional Amerindian necklace upon his arrival at the launch of Amerindian Heritage month of activities yesterday.

He said it is important to the country and there is no room for pedantic approaches as the development of indigenous people will be at the forefront of the strategy. Referring to comments made by Chief of the Guyanese Organisation of Indigenous Peoples (GOIP), Dr. George Norton, in a speech at the same event, the President said he agreed that all children, not only Amerindian children must have a proper perspective of the struggles of the indigenous peoples throughout the ages. However, he strongly disagreed with Norton’s views about “mendicancy syndrome”.

He said Amerindians are not mendicants, stating that he has great respect for Amerindians who can live in very difficult circumstances, contrasting them with some people on the Coast who will complain even when opportunities are easily available. Again disagreeing with Norton, President Jagdeo said we must subscribe to the philosophy of working together, instead of “who deh pon top”.

He said that even though some people would like that to continue, parties cannot continue to be built on race; barriers must be broken down and people must have the freedom to go into any party and any government that they wish. Calling out to young people he said “take your country over”.

He stressed that Guyana “belongs to us all, and all have an equal place in the land and are equal before the Constitution and, therefore, we must ensure that people have an opportunity to exercise this equality.” President Jagdeo noted that, unfortunately, for a long time, people who live in the hinterland never managed to experience that equality. He said that it is “unforgivable” that for decades in the post-independence period, intelligent children were “doomed” to have only a primary education, where it existed.

Jagdeo said that though the problem is not completely fixed, all children have access to primary education and secondary education has been expanded, noting that the government is now building a secondary school at Sand Creek – a hinterland community.  He also alluded to the fact that many Amerindians are even studying abroad. In this regards, President Jagdeo told the audience that he had, earlier in the day, attended a graduation ceremony where several Amerindian students were among the more than 90 persons that graduated.

Moving on to the issue of health care, President Jagdeo said the government is working to make drastic improvements to this area by providing more doctors rather than community health workers to serve Amerindian communities. He said that a part of the government’s strategy is to extend information communication to every home along Guyana’s coast.

Pledging 90 thousand computers to families along the coast, the president said it will be very hard to do that in Amerindian communities where homes are far apart and there often is not access to the internet, but over the next two years the government will work with villages, especially the large villages, to have a bank of computers so that there can be internet access for entire communities.

He said that this is also very important for “e-medicine”, which is an important part of improving the service as, if the distance is so great, information can be transmitted to health workers on the ground, in the absence of a doctor, to make better diagnoses. He said within three years, every Amerindian home in Guyana (some 10 thousand) will have a solar panel to supply electricity.

President Jagdeo also urged his listeners to continue viewing the LCDS as an opportunity for Guyana to create the elements of a market-based system through advocacy. He said rewards are in store for everyone, particularly indigenous communities, stressing that no indigenous community is required to contribute their land that they own and that they have absolute control over their land and will pledge land only if they wish to do so.

He said that even if they don’t give land, a significant amount of money earned from the strategy will go back to their communities, promising more opportunities to earn a living and have a better life without compromising cultural growth and cultural preservation.

President Jagdeo also expressed the hope that Guyanese will use the opportunity of the month long celebration to learn more about the contributions of Amerindians to Guyana’s national culture and join in the celebration.

Amerindian Heritage Month Celebrations were launched under the theme “Promoting Sustainable Livelihood and Cultural Heritage while transforming our Village Economies,” this year.