Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Amerindian development at a rapid pace under PPP/C rule

-Fifth National Toshaos Council meeting opens

OVER 170 Amerindian leaders including toshaos, senior councillors and members of the Indigenous People’s Commission (IPC) will be interfacing with President Bharrat Jagdeo, Government Ministers and officials from the various government agencies, as they deliberate on matters relating to their development for the duration of this week at the fifth National Toshaos Council (NTC) meeting at the Guyana International Conference Center (GICC), Liliendaal.
This year’s NTC meeting is being held under the theme, “Consolidating and Expanding Frontiers for Amerindian Development.”
At the opening ceremony yesterday, Amerindian Affairs Minister Ms. Pauline Sukhai recalled that the inclusion of the once marginalised Amerindian population was the vision of former President, the late Dr. Cheddi Jagan and one that the current People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) Administration worked tirelessly to realise.
“Guyana’s Amerindian population has witnessed frontier expansion without dispute in areas such as land ownership and access to social services and inclusion at the decision-making level,” she said.
Recognising that this is the last NTC meeting at which President Jagdeo will engage the toshaos in the capacity as Head of State, the minister said that it is under his tenure that Amerindian leaders have become exposed to open dialogue with government officials.
Some of the major achievements for Amerindians under the Administration include: a development of a four-year land demarcation plan in line with the Low Carbon Development Strategy (LCDS), and the passage of various legislation, moreso the Amerindian Act of 2006 and the Protected Areas Act.
With regards to the promotion of a low carbon economy, she said that most Amerindian villages remain supportive of a system of managed and sustainable utilisation of forest resources and added that government is heartened by the alternative economic proposals, presented by the leaders in their community development plans.
The proposals were since reviewed by the Amerindian Affairs Ministry and the implementation strategies for the Community Development Programmes (CDPs) are now ready. Since 2007, $436M has been disbursed to Amerindian villages for investments in income-generating projects as part of the Presidential Grant initiative.
Approximately 160 villages, including their satellites, are beneficiaries of this grant, which has significantly assisted them in developing food security, promoting eco-tourism, and other productive economic ventures.
There has also been marked increased in the funds allocated for the National Hinterland Secure Livelihood Programme (NHSLP), implemented in the Mabaruma sub region, increasing the numbers of beneficiaries to 317 in Region One.
Minister Sukhai noted that despite the achievements, there are constraints which government and the NTC must work together to overcome. Addressing the toshaos, she said that, “you have been our strongest partners in implementing what we have envisaged together.”
Chairperson of the NTC, Toshao Yvonne Pearson said that this forum presents the elected leaders with a great opportunity to voice the concerns of their people with a view to charting the way forward.
She mentioned an article in one of the daily publications, that referred to Amerindian leaders as “faithful subjects” and a mere “tool” of the ruling Administration.
“We are faithful subjects and tools for the development of the people who elected us,” she clarified.
Responding to calls made last week by individuals to boycott this annual meeting, Pearson questioned, “why would we want to stay away from this conference, when it is a platform for us to highlight the issues that are affecting us?”
She also reminded that government has worked effortlessly to address many of the concerns that were raised by leaders at last year’s conference.
She further explained that Amerindian leaders have great vision with regards to the development of their villages, many of which materialise at this forum.
Similar sentiments were echoed by Chairperson of the IPC, Doreen Jacobis who said that it is the government’s support that has led to the realisation of great improvements in areas such as education, health, infrastructure, communication, transportation and growth in village economies.
Jacobis pledged the commitment of the IPC, a newly established constitutional body, to work with all relevant stakeholders to promote and protect the rights of indigenous people and advance their interest in terms of their social, cultural, and economic development.

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