I decided to attend the cabinet outreach at the Anna Regina Multilateral on December 5, since I was one of the recipients of a merit award for outstanding community service presented by Prime Minister Moses Veerasammy Nagamootoo. I had received a special invitation from the office of the Prime Minister to be seated in the front seat at 10.30 am. On arrival at the compound I was greeted by the Minister within the Ministry of Indigenous People’s Affairs Valerie Garrido-Lowe, who then showed me the way to the auditorium. As I entered the room, the atmosphere was like a carnival, with the six races dressed in rainbow colours and the flag of Guyana.
The auditorium was dressed with the coalition colours; never was there so much enthusiasm and such devotion among a crowd. There was soft music playing in the background ‒ One Love.
It was the largest crowd I have ever seen since the memorial service for the late Dr Cheddi Jagan in 1997 at this same venue. I saw people from as far as Wakapoa, Kabakaburi, Mouruka, Dawa and Mainstay Lake. Essequibians turned out in their thousands to meet the Prime Minister and his team of ministers because of the genuine impact of the government during the past six months in office. They were showing their solidarity with good governance and rallying around President David Granger and Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo and an impressive, multi-ethnic, multi-class slate of ministers from APNU+AFC.
At 11 am the chairman for the day’s proceedings asked the crowd to stand while the Prime Minister and his wife Sita Nagamootoo made their way to the stage.
The first speaker of the day was Ms Garrido-Lowe who touched briefly on some of the plans for all the Amerindian communities across Guyana; she also welcomed all her Amerindian brothers and sisters who came from far and near. Ms Garrido-Lowe’s message was greeted with loud and constant cheers from the crowd.
The next speaker to take the podium was Minister of Communities Ronald Bulkan. He spoke at length about the upcoming local government elections, and told the audience that there had been only two local government elections since 1970, some 63 years ago, the last one being held on August 4, 1994. Since then the PPP had evaded the holding of local government elections. Now a new date has been set for March 16, 2016.
He said that the object of local government is to promote the welfare of the grassroots people. He said that a constitution is likely to be lifeless if it is seen by the people as an instrument to be operated by others, while the role of people in their communities is limited to the local government election of others from time to time. He urged all who are entitled to vote, to go out and vote for their leaders in their respective communities.
The other speaker who took the podium was Minister of Agriculture Noel Holder. This was the moment the rice farmers had been waiting for, as they wanted to hear something about the price for rice and paddy for this coming crop. He told the farmers that GRDB had obtained markets for rice in 38 places, including Europe, Jamaica, Haiti, Trinidad and Tobago, Caricom, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Brazil, Holland, Portugal, Mexico, etc.
The major destinations will absorb cargo rice, white rice, white brokens and cargo broken, but the price will not be as lucrative as the Venezuelan market. He urged rice farmers to pay greater attention to cost of production and efficiency. After he left the podium, Prime Minister Nagamootoo was greeted with a standing ovation and constant rounds of cheers and appaluse. He was the main speaker for the day’s proceedings and received several garlands from a group of young ladies.
He belted out to the audience that all who came here today, did so of their free will. All those who voted for a change must certainly now feel a great sense of satisfaction that finally there will no longer be a place for political victimization and marginalization, regardless of race, colour or creed.
The Prime Minister told the full house that we must treat the PPP as our family, because they are a part of parliament and the decision-making process. He also urged GAWU not to instigate strike action in the sugar industry; for the very first time since 2000, GuySuCo has been reaching and surpassing its monthly targets.
He called upon the RPA to do more for the rice farmers and not to betray them, since they are the farmers’ union. The RPA, he said, has always been in the vanguard of the struggle for a fair deal for rice farmers as under the late Dr Cheddi Jagan. It has played a pivotal role in agitating for cheap fertilizers and seed paddy; the GS should continue to do so and the government will support the organization once it will benefit the rice farmers.
The floor was then open for questions from the audience after the award ceremony. Some 50 persons received merit awards for outstanding community service, among whom was myself and prominent businessman and rice magnate Mr Sam Bacchus. The prime minister promised Essequibians that from now on, every month a minister of the government will visit Essequibo and address their problems.