Opposition will withhold support for Amerindian Development Fund until there is a roadmap on how money will be spent
Many persons stopped me on the road this past week to get my take on the fact that the combined opposition in Parliament has disapproved of the $1.1B set aside in the 2014 Budget for Amerindian Development.
My first reaction was to ask those persons what development, but I refrained. Instead I asked, why ask me? One young man was candid enough to say that I am seen as the voice of the Amerindians in Region 9. I had to quickly point out that I am not, and can never be. Firstly, I am not an Amerindian; and secondly the Amerindians have more than capable leaders to represent them.
I told that young man that I live in a region which is predominantly Amerin-dian, and as such almost everything that happens here will invariably have an effect on them.
So we got down to talking about the non-approval. This action by APNU, for I cannot speak for AFC, is very consistent with their 2011 Elections Manifesto. On page one, our Leader in his introductory remarks stated: “The tide of ideas in Guyanese politics has turned. A Partnership for National Unity has brought a new politics into being. We have, at the core of our commitment – a new covenant – between the citizen and the government. We believe passionately that all Guyanese are entitled to the benefits of a ‘good life’ in the country of their birth.”
Hence what took place in the National Assembly recently was predictable and very necessary.
I have travelled this country extensively and what I see is not a healthy picture. In the upper Mazaruni villages of Chinoweing and Wax Creek, not one child has ever passed the National Grade Six Examination to get a top secondary school in Georgetown. Rather, many of them, still at school age, work alongside their parents in search of that precious metal – gold. What sort of life will this fund guarantee these children? They are oft times the victims of all sorts of abuse from seasoned miners.
What sort of life will this fund guarantee families whose farms are constantly destroyed in the name of mining? How will this fund address the cleaning of the heavily polluted Mazaruni River, the main source of potable water for thousands of people?
Here in the Rupununi the situation is no different. On Tuesday, 8th of April, a retired primary school teacher brought a third form student from Quarrie Primary School home by me. This lad was touted as one of the brighter students at the school. He needed some assistance with his projects in Maths, Science and Social Studies. One thing was that the students, this lad included, were given all of these projects with less than a week to submit. The submission day was the next day, Wednesday.
The saddest thing was that the lad did not know the formula for calculating the area of a triangle. I am talking of a third form student. This is taught in primary school. This was supposed to be one of the brighter students.
I will bet all that I have, which is not much by the way, that there are more than 100 or more such third formers across this region.
How will this development fund help these children?
I have advocated in the past, and continue to do so, for a Technical Institute for the Rupununi. What we got instead is one massive courthouse which is still to be utilised. Is that this government’s vision for our youths?
While the majority of our young people are languishing in unemployment, underemployment and early pregnancies, which only serves to ensure that poverty is multiplied, the government has singled out 10 young people in each village to be Community Support Officers (CSOs).
At the RDC sitting of December 2013, I submitted 5 questions that were to be answered at the next sitting in February of this year. One of those questions had to do with the CSOs, their job description, the basis of their employment and their reporting line. The Clerk of Council chose to be absent on that occasion. We will see what happens this month when the next meeting is scheduled.
Suffice to say however, the regional system calls for District Development Officers 1 and 2; Assistant Regional Exective Officers and Deputy Regional Executive Officers. These officers are charged with ensuring the effective and efficient functioning of the local government system, inclusive of Amerindian villages.
Over the years, in an effort to find jobs for party operatives, the PPP has created the Community Development Officers and the Regional Development Officers. Now they have Community Support Officers. One thing is sure, all these positions come into conflict with each other and we have a situation of power play. Whoever is closer to the party wields more power.
Is that the PPP’s concept of development? It has been reported that some of these CSOs see themselves as the authority in the villages and confusion and division are the order of the day.
Therefore, until and unless the Ministers of Local Government and Amerindian Affairs detail a road map on how these monies will be spent the opposition will have the support of all, inclusive of the Amerindians themselves, to withhold their support.
From all the evidence available to date, the monies will be used as a vote-getting scheme.
Carl Parker Snr