Amerindians need long-term solutions to their problems

Dear Editor,

Firstly, let me say that I am not one of the fictitious writers that President Jagdeo complained were trying to destabilize his so-called efforts at development. He is familiar with me. He would recall that I wrote to him in November 2006, about the acts of corruption and discrimination in Region 2. It took another letter and six months for him to respond. His response indicated that the first letter had been sent to Mr Kellawan Lall, then Minister of Local Government, for him to investigate. That investigation, as the President would know, never got off the ground. The result was that I resigned in disgust. A copy of that resignation is being sent to the press for them to see.

Now to the purpose of this letter: On Tuesday, July 26, I met an Amerindian woman on the streets of Lethem and she approached me in an angry mood. I enquired what the problem was. Her response was, “Have you seen today’s Chronicle?” I admitted that I do not read the Chronicle as a rule. She went on to relate that a lot of nonsense was in it in relation to the President’s remarks at the opening ceremony of the Toshaos Conference.

Being curious by nature, I went to purchase the newspaper and was unable to secure a copy of my own, since that newspaper does not sell in this part of the country. Only the government departments acquire it because they have been ordered to do so. So I was loaned a copy to read, and I got to understand the woman’s disgust and anger.

Consequently, I decided that I have to write to ask for some clarifications on behalf of the Amerindians who were not fortunate to attend that conference. Mind you, I am not saying that Amerindian leaders should not meet to discuss issues affecting their communities. I would be the first to support such ventures, but some things were said that need clarification.

Mr Jagdeo said in his address, “Do not be disheartened by the negative comments of a few who write in the newspapers or get on the TV. We don’t serve them.” What a revelation. Does he not know that as a public official, he is open to scrutiny at all times? He is subject to criticism even when his intentions are good. He should take those criticisms like a man, and do his job. He does not have to ‘cuss’ out everybody when they don’t see the wisdom in what he is doing.

By that remark, Mr Jagdeo has unwittingly revealed a lot about himself and his presidency. Is it that he is not president of those who criticize him? Is it that he is only president of his supporters, and as such there is no need to serve those who do not agree with him? If that is the case then he should demit office at once. We need a president of all the people, even those who criticize.

He further said that those who criticize him come from a past era and have an old mentality. What mentality was he referring to? Is it the mentality that he so brazenly displayed at Babu John, when he told his supporters not to forget what happened in 1973, a year when he was still running around in short pants? Is it that that same old generation has taught him well, so that he too cannot forget even though he was not there?

He told the leaders that “Amerindian peoples have a voice to hear in policy making in Guyana…”

Why is it that I do not see one local Amerindian business in the commercial zone here in Lethem? Why have they been overlooked in favour of Georgetown-based and Brazilian businesses? Is it that our Amerindian peoples can only work as shop attendants? Don’t they possess the ability to run businesses for themselves?

Mr Jagdeo was on a roll when he informed the gathering that there were several works ongoing in Amerindian communities. What he did not tell them is that no Amerindians are allowed to work on those projects. Maybe the Norwegian Ambassador should investigate this. The Georgetown-based workers are taking all the monies to Georgetown and as such there is a cash-flow problem in these communities, since the wealth Mr Jagdeo bragged about is not remaining here to develop the community.

He lamented the criticisms of this particular meeting when he said, “…never worried about the past four meetings… the same kind of issues that we are going to be addressing…” Is it that these same kind of issues were not resolved in the past four years, so that he had to come back one final time to address the same issues? Is this indicative that no progress was made in relation to those issues for five years? Or, is it that he had to deal with these issues in small doses so that the leaders could be kept on a string? Is it that he kept the best for this time, an election year? He should see why we, his critics, know it is politicking.

Later on in the address Mr Jagdeo said, “…every single Guyanese regardless of race, religion, or from where they originate, must access equal opportunities…” I will implore him on this one  not to make statements that he cannot defend. Another statement attributed to him: “Despite the many opportunities by the government of the past, they neglected to provide Amerindians with the right to own their lands.” I find this hypocritical since we have at least two communities that had large portions of their lands taken away. In one instance large deposits of gold were found, and in the other, a party crony applied for the missing portion. If we are to give Amerindians lands, then that should include all mineral deposits found therein.

In relation to wealth President Jagdeo said, “If Guyana does not create the wealth, it cannot distribute the wealth.”  If Guyana is not creating the wealth, can he explain the phenomenon of a few very wealthy citizens? Can he explain the affluence of Pradovilles One and Two?

Again the head of state mentioned, “Here in Georgetown we are developing…which will lead…to us exporting education services…your children will be an essential part of this.” He should  please offer some word of advice to the 273 children of this largely Amerindian region, who did not get a place at a secondary school at this year’s National Grade Six Assessment.

In relation to freedom, this is what he said: “In this country we’ve come a long way…from the days when to speak out against the Government landed you in jail…Freedom to speak freely, associate freely…” What Mr Jagdeo meant to say was, to speak freely may get your TV licence suspended, or programmes pulled off the air, or certain personalities debarred from appearing on air.

Mr Jagdeo’s utterances might suggest a belief that Amerindians are a docile people. Please allow me to inform him, that to the contrary, these people are very intelligent people, and that intelligence will result in them rejecting the PPP/C and their half-baked resolutions at the upcoming elections. The Amerindian people need long-term solutions to their problems. They do not need annual hand-outs for their sustenance. They need realistic and sustainable measures that will ensure that their race survives through the century and beyond.

If Mr Jagdeo does not wish to respond and clarify the above-mentioned issues, I am willing to accept, as a compromise, in the interest of the democracy that he and the PPP love to extol, a three-way debate: Jagdeo v Granger v Ramjattan. The Guyanese taxpayers at least deserve that.

Yours faithfully,
Carl Parker

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