— plans for children in the future highlighted by politicians
Representatives of the political parties contesting for the 2011 General Elections in Guyana were yesterday called upon by the Rights of the Child Commission (RCC) and the United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) to articulate their commitment to the positions firmly held by their parties as it relates to “making children visible”.
The event, which was held at the Umana Yana, attracted Presidential Candidate of the Alliance for Change (AFC), Khemraj Ramjattan; the Prime Ministerial Candidate of the People’s Progressive Party/ Civic (PPP/C), Samuel Hinds, Executive Member of A Partnership of National Unity (APNU), Cheryl Sampson, and Executive Member of The United Force (TUF), Roy Van Tholl.
The audience which consisted of students from Queen’s College, President’s College, media personnel, commissioners of the RCC and staff of UNICEF listened attentively to each speaker as they put forward their cases.
Some youths representing Freedom House decided to join the event decked out in their “Vote PPP/C” white T-shirts.
The representative of each party was allowed 15 minutes to present his/her case about what the party plans to offer the country in the future with focus being placed on children and women.
Some of the speakers even promised that should their party lose this year’s elections, it would still support the elected government.
Speakers were designated according to alphabetical order of the party which ensured that AFC presented its case first.
Ramjattan noted that the activity was a unique occasion to examine what the political parties, the Presidential Candidates and the other representatives have to offer young people and children for the long term benefit of the country.
He zeroed in on what the AFC planned to do in the future to advance and enhance the education sector should they win the elections.
Noting that most of Guyana’s population is very young, Ramjattan stated that the merging of a recreational policy with educational and youth policies should be allowed to ensure the best for children since integrating such policies would “bring out the best for our children”.
The Presidential Candidate went on to say that the AFC would ensure that employment laws, those governing trafficking in children and abuse to children be adhered to; and in respect for penalties in breaches of laws there be aggravated sentences passed.
Ramjattan emphasized that there is a lot of race relations/ ethnic divides which the adult population allows to seep into the minds of the younger generation. Adults too, have a role to play in eradicating this issue, by monitoring the way they speak in their homes concerning the ethnic community.
He described ethnic divide as being primarily “a curse of this country” therefore this issue should be tackled by having more done in the area of educating young people on their differences.
Religion which plays a great role in the lives of young people would also be targeted with a $2M grant being awarded to 10 faith based organizations throughout the country to “focus on moral reviving”, promised Ramjattan.
For Sampson, APNU “expects and will protect the human rights of all citizens particularly valued resources such as children”.
She explained that the rights of women and those of children are tied to each other since most of the children in society spend more time growing up with women as their parent(s) and role models.
“APNU is committed to National Unity, providing good life for all Guyanese. APNU promises more jobs, an increase in income tax threshold, reduction in VAT and making home ownership more affordable for Guyanese”, offered Sampson.
She added that her party would ensure free school meals, uniforms, tackle the transportation issues for those who found difficulty in this area and offer affordable housing to the public so that children and their families both can benefit.
“Education makes the nation; we will reform the education system, education infrastructure will be rehabilitated, there will be running water in schools for toilets and drinking purposes, free textbooks, and trained teachers will get better salaries”, said APNU’s Executive Member.
According to the PPP/C, it has passed a “plethora” of legislations addressing the needs and protection of children such as the adoption of children act, protection of children act etc.
Hinds stated that with this being the case, the neighbouring country of Trinidad and Tobago is planning to take the ACT(s) as a model in preparation of their own.
He proffered that education has always been a primary focus for all of the budgets in the country so far by the PPP/C where up to 16 per cent of the budgetary allocation has been directed towards the education sector.
“I want you to recall the condition of the schools, school supplies, situations with teachers,” implored Hinds, as he informed the gathering about the works of the PPP/C for the past 19 years.
He explained that because of his party there has been progress and improvement in the education system where there is a wider provision of books, furniture in schools, and training of teachers.
Areas identified by Hinds were the juvenile centre which allows children the opportunity to “reform” while learning skills which they can use when they meet the working world, providing thousands of house lots for families, over 90 per cent of children with immunization free of cost for parents and the establishment and expansion of technical vocational centres throughout the country.
He added that the PPP/C was founded on the vision of two tasks for the country; working to become “truly one people” and recognizing the great challenge embedded in this task since there are many different people from different cultures who come from different places.
“Great effort is required for us to come together as one people from our different historic backgrounds. The second task was building our nation which requires putting hands to tasks of increasing infrastructure, roads, drains, material things etc…seeing ourselves working together as a team. My submission rests on our performance over the past 19 years” posited Hinds.
The TUF representative said that the commitment is not only needed by parties but communities on the whole. Major emphasis should be placed on the family life since this is where the personalities of young people are created.
“Forget about politics after November 28 and think of the children, our children, our future,” added Van Tholl.
UNICEF representative to Guyana and Suriname, Dr. Suleiman Braimoh, stated that this was the first time he has witnessed a strong demonstration of political will that will take the agenda of women and children forward.
“If you win, you’re Government, you have a job to do with respect to women and children. If you don’t win you still have that commitment,” said Braimoh. (Kristen Macklingam)
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