I take this opportunity to salute our Amerindian brothers and sisters on the
occasion of Amerindian Heritage Month.
There can be no doubt regarding the contributions made by Amerindians to the growth and development of Guyana. Indeed, Amerindians were the first people to inhabit this country and they represent the only ethnic group that are truly indigenous to this land we call Guyana.
This is why any attempt to disrespect or to deny our indigenous population their rightful place in our history must be resisted and condemned.
I had the opportunity to visit and interact with Amerindians in several hinterland communities and I can attest as to their creativity and sense of community. Amerindians take their development very seriously. Meetings even at short notice are usually well attended, and the quality of discourse on community matters is profound and foward-looking.
Regrettably, for historical and other reasons Amerindian development was neglected for several decades. It is no exaggeration to say that it was only under the PPP/C administration that any real attempt was made to upgrade the quality of life of our indigenous peoples.
Our Amerindian and indigenous peoples have come a long way since the pre-1992 period. The social and physical infrastructure of these communities has to a large extent been overhauled. Amerindians are living longer and healthier lives and are today the fastest growing segment of the population. Children from hinterland communities are doing much better at national and regional examinations.
Challenges remain and it is now the responsibility of this APU+AFC administration to ensure that the gains made by the previous PPP/C government are further consolidated. The recently concluded conference in Georgetown involving government officials has exposed some serious divergences, both at the attitudinal and policy levels regarding Amerindian development and the way forward. Amerindians know better than anyone else what is in their best interest. Any imposed policy prescription will fail. The Amerindian people through their elected representatives are the ones best placed to come up with solutions to the issues confronting them.
Central government has a duty and responsibility to ensure that the requisite resources are made available from the Consolidated Fund to facilitate hinterland development, but not to dictate how such resources should be utilized.