The PNCR insists that it has made numerous contributions to Amerindian development and dismissed claims to the contrary made by President Donald Ramotar as “wildly uninformed.”
According to a report from the Guyana Information Agency (GINA), Ramotar, during his opening address to declare Amerindian Heritage Month open, argued that Amerindian development picked up in 1992—the year the PPP/C took over the reins of government from the PNC—after “stagnating” under the PNC administration post 1964.
The PNC, however, argued that its contributions to “the improvement of public services to the indigenous communities and the progress made in hinterland development are a matter of incontrovertible historical record.”
Highlighting some of the PNC-led development efforts, the party in a statement noted that it initiated the Toshaos’ Conference at a four-day consultation in Georgetown – February 28 to March 3 1969 – which “provided 170 indigenous leaders with their first and best opportunity until then to discuss the problems affecting their widely-dispersed communities with central government.”
The PNC also argued that the PPP administration, during its 1957-1965 tenure, did nothing to fulfil the longstanding desire of the indigenous nations to reclaim their ancestral lands.
The PNC said it established the Amerindian Lands Commission in 1976 with P A Forte as its chairman. Under Forte, the PNC said, the commission began the process of demarcating and facilitating indigenous land rights. The PNC said that the PPP, which has since formed government, is yet to complete this process started so many decades ago.
In terms of educational development initiatives, the PNC said steps taken by the party helped to develop primary and secondary education in indigenous communities.
The party said primary education was expanded in Aranaputa Valley and Monkey Mountain through the construction of primary schools. In addition, “Eleven new government-aided, all-age schools were built at Konashen, Maruranau, St Ignatius, Sand Creek, Toka and Yakarinta in the Rupununi; Kamarang in the Cuyuni Mazaruni Region; Baramita, Matthew’s Ridge, Port Kaituma and several other areas.
Through these efforts, the party said, there were 92 primary schools in indigenous communities by 1968. “A great improvement from what the PPP bequeathed in 1964.”
Secondary education as well, was taken to the indigenous people as opposed to “forcing them to leave their families and communities to study on the coastland.” Schools to facilitate this level of learning were constructed at St Ignatius in the Rupununi and Hosororo in the Barima-Waini Regions, the PNC said.
Education programmes also included the expansion of the hinterland scholarships policy.
Through this initiative, selected indigenous students were send on five-year scholarships, during which time they received allowances to purchase books and clothing, and were also given passage to return home during the Christmas and August holidays. Hostels were constructed in Princes Street to house students during their studies.
The party also said that it modernised the hinterland and indigenous communities which once depended entirely on slash and burn procedures and subsistence agriculture. Now, a more market-oriented model of production has been implanted which has been facilitated though the improvement of the cultivation of traditional crops and the introduction of new crops. “Farmers were trained in practical course at the Hosororo Agricultural Station and at the Guyana School of Agriculture at Mon Repos,” the statement read.
These efforts were aided along by the Guyana Marketing Corporation which guaranteed stable produce prices in villages and provided reliable air-freight from the villages to the markets in Georgetown. 594,712 lbs of cabbages and tomatoes were produced and shipped by farmers in indigenous communities to the capital city by air in 1971 as a result of this provision.
Scores of self-help projects, including a communal farm at Aishalton; community centres at Annai and Kurukabaru; a bridge at Sawariwau; wells at Massara and Toka; a medical outpost at Wakapoa and a paddock at Karasabai were also funded by the PNC administration, the statement said.
The PNC also said that airfields were built in ten communities including Coomaka, Eteringbang, Kaikan and Shea, while roads were built at Patarinau, Hosororo and elsewhere. Further, administrative centres were linked with defence and security stations with the installation of a radio communication network.