Home Features APNU/AFC stifled and sabotaged Amerindian and hinterland development
This week Guyana starts the celebration of Amerindian Heritage, recognising and acknowledging the importance of our Amerindian sisters and brothers in the economic, social and cultural development of Guyana. For this year’s celebration, the emergence of Amerindian children among the top CXC performers in our country must be celebrated. Hinterland secondary schools are increasingly competitive with coastland secondary school and this must be noted. As we celebrate Amerindian Heritage Month 2019, we must take meaningful time to celebrate the performances of these children and schools in CXC 2019.
In his written address, read by the then Minister of Agriculture, Brindley Benn, at the inauguration of the University of Guyana in 1963, Cheddi Jagan spoke of his dream that quality secondary school education would come to every Guyanese child, everywhere they live. Today, because of his dream and the PPP’s education access programs, every Amerindian child has access to secondary education. In 2019, an Amerindian child attending the Anna Regina Secondary School in Region 2 was the top CXC performer for Guyana and possibly for Caricom and several Amerindian children attending schools in the hinterland were among the top 100 CXC performers in the country. These children are manifestations of Cheddi’s dream come through.
As we celebrate Amerindian Heritage Month 2019, elections, due since before March 21st, are expected anytime now. APNU/AFC is busy politicking, using the vast resources of the State to brazenly campaign and transforming Amerindian Heritage Month into APNU/AFC’s election campaign in the hinterland and among the Amerindian people. For four and a half years, APNU/AFC totally ignored the hinterland and Amerindians, forgetting all the lofty promises they made before the 2015 elections. But, suddenly, facing an election and confronted with an absolute loss of confidence, particularly in the hinterland, APNU/AFC is insulting Amerindians and hinterland communities with hand-outs, gifts and more empty promises, in a vulgar effort to buy votes.
The Amerindian people in their villages and the hinterland communities have been stifled in the last four and a half years, development callously sabotaged by APNU/AFC. Now that they desperately need the votes of Amerindians, APNU/AFC is spending much time and handing out enormous resources begging for votes. They think they could buy votes in the hinterland by giving away things, not thinking for one moment that people know what they are doing. Brazen hand-outs and vulgar promises will not and could not erase the neglect of the past four and a half years.
In 1976, there was an Amerindian Act that promised land titles for Amerindian Communities; that legal obligation was ignored by the PNC Government and not a single Amerindian village or community received its land title. In the Bharat Jagdeo-led PPP Government of 2001-2006, the new Amerindian Act strengthened the provisions for Amerindian Land Rights and Titling of the Amerindian lands. Significant progress was made in land-titling and dozens of Amerindian Communities received their land titles. But just when land-titling had gathered speed, APNU/AFC stopped any further progress in 2015. During the 2015 elections campaign, they promised to accelerate land-titling. But since 2015, the exercise has come to a screeching halt. Not a single Amerindian village has had its land title issued. It is a betrayal, a broken promise. Now, APNU/AFC is promising again that land-titling will become a priority in 2020 and onwards. Sydney Allicock, Dawn Hastings and Garrido-Lowe have stood shamelessly silent as APNU/AFC stifled land-titling started under the PPP.
In four and a half years, little or no improvement has been made in the various airstrips in the hinterland. APNU/AFC had promised they would transform air transportation for the hinterland communities, using air transportation to catalyse economic and social development for the Amerindian and Hinterland communities. This is another broken promise, another betrayal. But it is a betrayal that should not shock anyone because it is APNU/AFC in 2013 and 2014, as the then Opposition, which voted against budgetary allocations for improvement of hinterland airstrips. Earlier this year, they decided they would add VAT to air travels to and from the hinterland communities, making it costlier. After introducing this regressive measure, the PPP/C and others objected and protested. With elections approaching, APNU/AFC buckled and remove the VAT, claiming credit for removing the VAT they introduced.
These are just two examples of the assault on Amerindian and hinterland communities. There are dozens of other measures that specifically make life harder for Amerindians and others who live in the hinterland. The dismissal of more than 2,000 community officers, the suffocation of the Amerindian Development Fund, the removal of the $10,000 per child grant, the downgrading of the hot meal program for school children, the termination of the ONE LAPTOP PER FAMILY and the solar panel programmes, the non-investment in hinterland roads, the poor supply of medicines and medical supplies, the virtual halting of the medical doctor assignments to hinterland hospitals, the restrictions on sub-surface mining rights, etc., are major impediments to the social and economic development of hinterland communities and, in particular, Amerindian communities. The Amerindian people will not be fooled by the charlatans that bring gifts and empty promises today.