THE official launch of Guyana’s first indigenous restaurant at the Umana Yana last Saturday is further solid evidence of what a people, who were once perceived as being outside the pale of the nation’s family of nations and socio-economic development, can achieve if given equal opportunities as the other people segments.
This eating house, that will be named The Tuma Sala, a Patamona word that means LET US EAT will, when its doors are opened on February 1, at Campbell Avenue and Middleton Street, formally introduce delectable and succulent Amerindian dishes to a public that will surely welcome the array of exotic meats, for which Amerindian cuisine is so well known. Indeed, it is a venture that should be lauded by all Guyanese and be supported for the added variety that it will add to the dining-out table.
Without a scintilla of doubt, or even contradiction, the past 20 years have been the most significant in the lives of our Amerindian peoples. It would be appropriate for this period to be described as heralding the rise of the nation’s indigenous peoples, after decades of cruel neglect and exploitation, first by the colonialists, and surprisingly by the People’s National Congress administration, whose continuation of such a criminality ought not to have been, given the fact that as the government of the day, of an independent Guyana, it was in their power to begin the just task of improving the lives of these people, who have always been part of the Guyanese Family.
Lest it be forgotten, especially conveniently by those perennial critics, the story of the emergence of this once relegated segment of the Guyanese population, properly began with the ascension of the PPP/C to government. Successive PPP/C administrations have ensured the fulfilment of the promise of Amerindian socio-economic improvement and well-being, made by the indomitable Dr. Cheddi Jagan, during the campaign for the historic October, 1992 elections.
The results of the billions spent on the numerous programmes, particularly the designed hinterland development interventions, are there for all to see, with the cumulative effect that Amerindian lives, and their communities in the process, are gradually being transformed: newly built hospitals and health centres that now offer improved medical services to Amerindians; schools and student dormitories have been built; an initiative that has ensured an improved water supply system to almost every hinterland community; an electrification process that has seen over 11,000 solar panels distributed to in excess of 140 communities; and a roads programme that is in the process of making inter-connectivity among Amerindian communities a reality.
Added to these achievements, is the rapid increase in the number of Amerindian professionals and workers, within the Public Service.
Thanks to a better funded and well managed Hinterland Scholarship Fund, there are now Amerindian doctors, nurses, pharmacists, agricultural scientists, medical technologists, ICT specialists, clerical officers, soldiers and policemen – all contributing to the national process of growth and development. In fact, Amerindians are now visible at every level of society, a fact that was negligible prior to 1992.
Absolutely, this soon–to-be-opened eating enterprise signals that the Amerindians are ready to enter the larger mainstream of competitive commerce, moving away from the traditional craft industry for which they have become internationally famous. Not that such an industry is going to be abandoned, as there will also be craft, jewellery and ornaments on sale at the very restaurant. Most important, is the fact that such a venture is further indication of their gradual acceptance of integration into the mainstream of the Guyanese family mosaic.
Let us offer them most hearty congratulations, and every future success.