Opposition coalition APNU yesterday said it will ensure that the indigenous people direct their own development if it is elected into office, while blasting the incumbent’s “paternalistic” approach to decision-making.
“They (Amerindians) are fed up with the paternalistic approach that has been meted out to them and therefore they would like to ensure that the decisions that affect their lives…are made by themselves and that is consistent with what the constitution says,” APNU member Lance Carberry said yesterday during a press briefing, where APNU’s policy objective was outlined. “It is almost as if the Amerindians are owned by the ministry of Amerindian Affairs.”
“That is totally unacceptable,” he added, while criticizing the manner in which the government had been treating Guyana’s indigenous people.
Carberry, while reading from a prepared statement yesterday at APNU’s Regent Street Secretariat, said “APNU is convinced that the Indigenous peoples should be empowered to exercise control over developments affecting their livelihoods, lands, territory and resources.” “In that respect they should be responsible for the strengthening of their institutions and the advancement and promotion of their cultures and traditions,” he added.
He said that the coalition welcomed the fact that the Guyanese Indigenous Peoples are organizing themselves for the political, economic, social and cultural enhancement, so as to bring an end to all forms of discrimination and oppression against them.
Carberry pledged that an APNU-led government will pursue policies which ensure that the indigenous peoples and individuals are “free and equal to all other peoples; do not suffer any forms of discrimination in the exercise of their rights and have the right to self-determination of their political, economic, social and cultural development.” In order to prevent “the forced assimilation or destruction of their culture,” Carberry said that the APNU government will establish effective mechanisms to prevent and provide redress for any action which is intended to deprive Amerindians of their identity as distinct people, cultural values or ethnicity.
He said that the indigenous people will have equal rights to access the highest attainable standard of social services and physical and mental health services. Carberry said too that the APNU would take specific measures to protect indigenous children from economic exploitation or harm to their health physical, mental, spiritual, moral or social development,
APNU will also ensure that Amerindians are not forcibly removed from their lands, Carberry stated. “No relocation shall take place without the free, prior and informed consent of the Indigenous Peoples concerned and only after agreement on just and fair compensation and, where possible, with the option of return,” he said.
According to Carberry, his party will also ensure that Amerindians have the right to establish and control their educational systems and institutions, including providing teaching in their own languages and in ways that are appropriate to their own cultural methods of teaching and learning. Further, an APNU government will ensure that there is adequate interpretation and other appropriate services are made available to facilitate effective participation in political, legal and administrative proceedings.
Prior to the approval and implementation of any project affecting Amerindian lands and resources, Carberry said that APNU will ensure that Amerindians are consulted through their own representatives and ensure that their consent is acquired.
Meanwhile, APNU member Dr Vernon McPherson said that the partnership will be pushing to develop and sustain a vibrant hinterland agricultural programme. He said that in regions 1, 7 and 8, it will focus on community-level integrated crop and small animal production systems aimed at the continual availability of foods so as to improve the health and nutrition of the people.
He noted that some areas in Region 1 are capable of sustained yields from orchard crops, such as citrus, avocado, coffee, oil palm, minica, black-eye, and other legumes and ground provisions.
“In the villages of Region 8, where the production of ‘exotic’ food crops, such as carrots, white potatoes, onions, turmeric, etc. was successfully undertaken during 1972-76, such production will be resuscitated and expanded to cater for the national and Caricom markets,” McPherson promised.
McPherson also plugged Region 9 as suitable for a wide range of crops such as citrus, avocado, carrots, eschallot, onions, cabbages, corn, hot and sweet peppers, tomatoes, ground provision and sugar cane. “Traditional beef cattle rearing will be put on a scientific footing to take advantage of the international demand for ‘organic’ beef, while the nascent sheep and goat rearing enterprises will be strengthened to address dietary animal protein needs of villagers, in the first instance, as flocks are built up to meet the significant local and Caricom demands for sheep and goat meats,” he said.
McPherson said that APNU in will move to ensure that the Intermediate Savannahs in Region 10, “which have been long touted as the ‘next frontier for agricultural development’, are effectively utilized for integrated, industrial-level crop and livestock enterprises.”
The coalition, McPherson said, will implement a coherent programme to ensure that the numerous dispersed communities in the region benefit from the modern technologies employed on the commercial farms.
“APNU is fully aware that the achievement of these objectives is predicated on the adoption of new technologies by individuals and communities who have not, for the most part, been in the mainstream of modern, commercial agriculture,” McPherson said. Consequently, the programme will include the continual training and development of a cadre of local residents, especially youths, McPherson explained.