Claims by Norton during BBP visit quite conflicting

Dear Editor,
I find the claims made by the Leader of the Political Opposition, Mr. Aubrey Norton — made via a prepared statement read by Mr. Sherwin Benjamin during a recent Office of the Leader of the Opposition Facebook live, following an alleged visit to Black Bush Polder — quite conflicting.
If we were to analyze how the Opposition operates, especially when visiting Government strongholds and engaging persons in hope of garnering support, we would find there is always some form of proof, whether in the form of photos or a social media live. I’ve done my due diligence by searching the social media pages of Mr. Norton and several other popular Opposition members, and I am unable to find any photos or videos to prove that Mr. Norton had indeed visited the area and had been given the warm welcome he claims to have received.
Nevertheless, let’s discuss some of the claims made by Mr. Norton in his statement.
In the statement, Mr. Norton accused the Government of being discriminatory with the distribution of the 2021 Flood Relief cash grant. The Minister of Agriculture, Honourable Zulfikar Mustapha, and several other ministers and senior members of the Government, visited Black Bush Polder on several occasions during the registration and distribution of the grant. While there were minor issues with the process, such as misspelled names, etc, the officials never received such claims.
It should also be noted that several rounds of verification and distribution were done in BBP and other areas across the country, which saw the process lasting longer than expected.
The statement went on to say that there was “absence of a coherent agricultural development plan in the region. The Government allocated rice land and cash crop land next to each other. This creates problems when rice farmers are spraying weedicides to protect their rice crops and cash crops are affected.”
BBP was established in 1962. The PNC assumed office following the 1964 General and Regional Elections. They remained in power for 28 years, following a series of fraudulent elections in 1968, 1973, 1980, and 1985. Over the years, which included the 28 years before 1992, while the PNC Government was in office, farmers in the homestead of BBP — who were cash crop farmers with large amounts of land — began to utilise some of those lands for rice cultivation. Again, during their short stint in office between 2015 and 2020, farmers continued to exercise these practices and expanded their rice cultivation. Nothing was done to reverse or discourage this. So, to say that the Government allocated rice land and cash crop land next to each other is a blatant and deliberate lie.
Not surprisingly, these claims demonstrate Mr. Norton’s lack of knowledge of the agricultural history of BBP. While on several outreaches to all four polders in BBP, the Minister of Agriculture engaged farmers about the Government’s developmental plans, which include establishing a structured way of farming (agricultural zoning) as well as infrastructural developments within each zone to support specific agriculture-related activities.
The allegations regarding corruption in the distribution of state resources couldn’t be further from the truth, as resources have been, and will always be, distributed equally across all communities and villages in Guyana. In fact, farmers have benefitted from more relief, inputs and resources in the last four years than in the 33 years the PNC was in office.
The Government has, over the years, been known to engage persons from all walks of life. They were also able to secure a high percentage of crossover support, which is evident from the results of the last Local Government Elections. They could only have achieved this through engaging and supporting perceived supporters of the Opposition. People tend to gravitate towards sustainable development and constant support, and this is what the PPP/C has delivered over the last four years.
Allegations of mismanagement at the BBP NDC were also made in his statement. It is unconscionable for Mr. Norton to blame the NDC and the minister for the way contractors are maintaining irrigation and drainage canals when it was Minister Mustapha himself who, while in Region Two earlier this year, instructed the RDC to terminate contracts awarded to persons found spraying the canals, as this was against their contractual stipulations. This was an instruction given to all RDCs and NDCs across the country.
As it relates to water management in BBP and across all cultivation areas, the NDIA has been working with the NDCs and the Water Users Associations to develop schedules to effectively distribute water resources. When breaches are discovered, some resulting from both cash crop and rice farmers tampering with the D&I infrastructure, emergency and remedial works are executed.
The NDIA also worked to have additional rangers in place to monitor these structures.
Mr Norton should be ashamed of himself for putting forward such ridiculous claims when his party is known for minimising agricultural development in this country. It is the PNC that discriminates against farmers in this country, as they are perceived to be supporters of the ruling PPP/C. They have never put forward a comprehensive and feasible plan for agricultural development in Guyana. While the Government and the citizens were asking for such plans, the PNC-led APNU/AFC were busy reducing the budgetary allocation to the sector, and telling the country to wait on the oil money to see development.
I suspect the recent series of testimonials from farmers across the country — that are being uploaded to the Ministry’s social media pages — about the help and support received from the Ministry of Agriculture has lit a fire under the Opposition’s rear end, and they are now working overtime to try and discredit the successes of the Government. But the people have spoken, and they will continue to speak; and this Government will continue to support the farmers and develop Guyana’s agriculture sector.

Yours sincerely,
Rajesh Rampertab