Opposition leader Bharrat Jagdeo says he is ready to defend his government’s record on Amerindian issues after accusations that the former PPP/C government stifled the ability of the National Toshaos Council (NTC) to act.
Last Thursday, the NTC noted in a press statement that during previous NTC conferences, “every single component from the Chairman’s remarks, to who spoke, and when to hush leaders were all managed by the PPP. Independent media and other organizations were also banned from attending and the agenda and everything else was managed by the PPP.”
NTC Vice-Chairman Lenox Shuman has been reported as referring to the council as a parrot whose wings were clipped by the previous administration and expressed the view that Jagdeo should have been invited to appear at the just-concluded conference to answer for the actions of his government in this regard.
When asked at a press conference held at his Church Street office on Friday if he would be willing to address these accusations, Jagdeo said yes. “I would love to. If they call me now, I will go because I believe we can defend our track record,” he said.
The former president, however, did not respond to the specific accusations of curbing the autonomy of the NTC; instead he referenced what he called the “actions” of his government.
‘It’s not about talk but about actions,” he stressed, while noting that Dr. Eric Phillips has referred to the Amerindian Act of 2006 as a land reparatory justice act.
“How does such a description square with clipping their wings?” he asked.
Jagdeo noted that the 2006 Act gave Amerindian peoples sub-surface rights, which allowed them to control mineral resources and gave the Village Councils greater autonomy. He also referenced the building of schools, dormitories and health huts as evidence of his government’s actions.
“We put in every home a solar panel. It’s not about talk, but about actions,” he repeatedly stressed, before once again accusing the present government of unjustly dismissing hundreds of Community Service Officers.
“They got rid of 1,972 jobs which was $700 million per year to village economies, and replaced them with 28,000 shoes,” Jagdeo lamented.