Amerindians paid to protest – APNU MP
Following the $1.1B cut to the Amerindian Development Fund (ADF) from the National Estimates, A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) Member of Parliament, Renita Williams says that as a representative of Amerindians, specifically those in Region 1, Barima-Waini, “my brothers and sisters are aggrieved at the way the government handled their concerns.”
She was at the time seeking to defend the cuts made by the combined opposition and drew reference to the fact that a supplementary paper was tabled in the National Assembly in December 2013, where the sum of $500M was approved towards Amerindian Development.
According to Williams, the Opposition at the time was reluctant to approve the sum, since only nineteen days remained in 2013 at the time when the vote was taken.
She recalled that an explanation was sought from Members of the House and, as per the information provided by the Minister of Amerindian Affairs, Pauline Sukhai, the House approved the sums.
According to Williams, during the presentation of the Minister of Amerindian Affairs regarding the $1.1B, the combined Opposition requested of the Minister the reasons for which the sum would be utilized.
Varying explanations were given such as the payment to Community Support Officers (CSOs) among others.
“In the estimation of the combined Opposition, it was established that the monies requested were not likely to be utilized towards the development of Amerindian villages.”
She noted that Amerindians generally are affected by the fact that their land demarcation and entitlement matters are not properly addressed by the current administration.
“What is quite noticeable is that the government continues to use the resources of the people of Guyana and their machinery to impose on the Amerindians.”
Williams said that the Government continues to make promises to the Amerindians regarding the settlement of the matters, “however, what we frequently see is that little or no attention is paid afterwards.”
Williams claimed that the government, through the Ministry of Amerindian Affairs, mobilized Amerindians from Regions One and Nine to protest against the combined opposition, specifically targeting Amerindians in the Opposition, namely Dr. George Norton, Dawn Hastings and Sydney Allicock of APNU; and Valerie Garrido-Lowe and June Marcello of the Alliance For Change, for the disapproval of the funds towards Amerindian Development.
“This I deem as an insult to us, the representatives in the National Assembly…As reported, I was told that the persons who are on the protest line are persons paid as CSOs by the PPP/C Government”
She noted too that it was further reported that the young people claimed that they were deceived, since they were told that they were coming to meet with leaders of the Opposition parties regarding the disapproval of the Amerindian Fund and were surprised when they were advised that they would be protesting outside of Parliament.
“I am appealing to my Amerindian community leaders in all the regions in Guyana, the time has come when we as a people, with 10 per cent of the population, should stand up to the PPP/C government and tell them that enough is enough…The time for political gaming with Amerindians should cease.”
Williams is adamant that Amerindians must be able to decide what is best for themselves and their communities.
“The time for handouts is over…Amerindians deserve a decent and good life.”
According to the APNU Member of Parliament, there are currently several pressing matters facing the people in region one, such as unemployment for the youths, deplorable roads and bridges and poor infrastructural works.
“Rather than the Government taking $1.1B to be disbursed amongst a selected few to do its propaganda work, it should seek to have the monies utilized in developing the various communities in addressing the areas alluded to earlier.”
Williams emphasised that government should have been seeking to utilize the funds with the construction of technical institutes and vocational centres in the various Amerindian communities.
“Government should seek to utilize such funds towards scholarship programmes, to provide Amerindians with opportunities to access entry to the Carnegie School of Home Economics, Government Technical Institute or other skill-based institutions…Government should utilize such funds to provide proper water/land transportation, so that those vulnerable and underprivileged young people can get to and from school on a daily basis.”
“If the Government is serious about development, then it should ensure that APNU’s suggestions are met. Once this is done, Amerindians would be able to return to their respective regions and aid in the development of their people and by extension their villages.”
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