… Takes swipe at APA, newspaper writers
President Bharrat Jagdeo used his speech at a ceremony his Ministers and friends organised to fete him on winning the UN’s highest environmental honour, to take a swipe at newspaper writers and at the Amerindian People’s Association (APA).
The ceremony, held on the foreground of the Guyana International Conference Centre at Liliendaal, attracted hundreds.
Posters with Jagdeo, along with Guyana flags, were nailed to lampposts lining the way to the venue. The first indication of who organised the event came when the representative of the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), Marco Nicola, said he was invited to speak at the ceremony by the government. And when Jagdeo took to the podium to deliver his speech, he thanked his Cabinet colleagues and friends.
President Jagdeo was accorded a red-carpet welcome when he returned to Guyana after accepting the award in Seoul.
Huge billboards emblazoned with a photo of the President bearing the title “Champion of the Earth” has popped up around the country, and it is unclear who has funded these as well and whether permission was sought to erect them much the same when billboards popped up recently in support for a third term for the President.
Noticeably absent from the event were representatives of the APA, which has not wavered in its protest over the way consultations on Jagdeo’s Low Carbon Development Strategy (LCDS) were held.
Jagdeo said that the APA was too busy to take part in the multi-stakeholder steering committee for those consultations. The President boasted that the consultations were unlike any other conducted anywhere in the world.
“We made it clear that indigenous people’s rights would be respected and that there would be free, prior and informed consent,” Jagdeo stated.
While the government has said this repeatedly, the APA has argued that this is not so, since, for example, the government has approved large scale mining projects which threaten the traditional way of life in some communities.
The Guyana Geology and Mines Commission (GGMC), and mining company, Romanex Guyana Exploration Limited, have signed a licence for the company to mine at Marudi Mountain, but Amerindians in the South Rupununi who depend on the headwaters of the mountain and the surrounding area for their daily food sustenance claim their right to free, prior and informed consent has been violated.
The LCDS forms the basis under which the Norwegian Government has signed a Memorandum of Understanding to give Guyana US$250 million in five years if it were to protect the rainforest.
Yesterday, Jagdeo said that out of this agreement, in the coming months US$30 million will be made available and that US$7 million will be put into Amerindian affairs, mainly to accelerate titling.
He said that Amerindian communities will benefit from the funds that flow even if they do not opt into the LCDS since the preservation of the forests involves state lands.
However, the APA has also argued that while the government has been saying this, the very government is yet to settle the issue of the traditional lands used by the Amerindians, since their way of life is not confined within demarcated lands.
Jagdeo also used the occasion to criticise newspaper columnists who have been critical of the government, labeling them bitter old people.
“We must not give up our country and its future to the few in our midst who are negative about every single thing on earth. They are always negative and many of them, frankly speaking, are very old people.
“There are about five of them you see recurring in the newspapers. Five of them very old, people who have lived their lives very bitter. The future doesn’t belong to them…,” Jagdeo declared.
Jagdeo said that the US$30 million that will initially flow from Norway will also be used for “buying into the equity on hydro projects” and for setting up an international centre for biodiversity research.
Also noticeably absent from the ceremony were opposition parliamentarians. The opposition has also criticised the way the consultations on the LCDS were held.
Speeches at the ceremony honouring Jagdeo were delivered by the IDB’s representative, the Resident Co-ordinator of the UN System here, Kiari Liman-Tinguiri, President of the Private Sector Commission, Ramesh Dookhoo, General Secretary of the Federation of Independent Trade Unions (FITUG) Carvil Duncan, Chairperson of the National Toshao’s Council Yvonne Pearson and Prime Minister Samuel Hinds.
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