– President urges at beginning of Indigenous Heritage Month
By Svetlana Marshall
INDIGENOUS Heritage Month 2016 was ushered in last evening with an Interfaith Service at the Indigenous Village, Sophia, Greater Georgetown, under the theme: “Our Culture, Earth’s future.”
During the service, which attracted Guyanese from all walks of life, there was a menu of prayers and religious citations from the various faiths, particularly those practised within indigenous communities. President David Granger and First Lady Sandra Granger; Vice-President and Minister of Indigenous People’s Affairs, Sydney Allicock; Minister within the Ministry of Indigenous People’s Affairs, Valerie Garrido-Lowe; and Minister within the Ministry of Public Health, Dr Karen Cummings, were among officials in attendance.
On the sidelines of the interfaith service, President Granger underscored the importance of respecting one’s culture and religious beliefs, noting that education is important in this regard.
“Recently, I was at Blairmont. I went to a Hindu Mandir. There was a ceremony; I learnt a lot about the ritual surrounding the worship of Lord Hanuman and I think other ethnic groups should do that – learn about the rites [and] customs [of other cultures],” the President posited.
He noted that it is only through education that people can enhance their understanding of each other’s culture. As such, he said the national education system must be broadened, so that Guyanese can have a better understanding of religion and the ethnic groups.
“So there is no place for ignorance; once there is ignorance there is going to be misunderstanding and conflicts,” the President said, noting too that the best people to speak about their own culture are the people themselves.
President Granger’s comments were in response to statements made by Pandit Deodatt Tillack of the Shri Samayapuran Mariamma Temple, who during the interfaith service, condemned what is perceived to be the culture of some of the Amerindian nations.
Pandit Tillack turned heads when he contended that through their cultural practices, fractions of the indigenous community condone “statutory rape.”
“Their culture, being a woman at just 12, and man at 16 or 17, conflicts with our constitution, because why it is ok for you to get married at 12, for a 17-year-old boy to marry a 12-year-old girl? Our constitution speaks against that,” Pandit Tillack contended.
He added: “Our conventional things conflict with your indigenous way of life.”
As the Pandit was speaking, Advisor to the Ministry of Indigenous People’s Affairs, Mervyn Williams, was seen walking out of the benab where the ceremony was being held.
When approached by reporters, Williams said he was “extremely uncomfortable.”
“I believe this to be a very sacred occasion; it is centrally invoking the blessing of god by whatever name you call him on our activities, and I think there was a misconception of some issues, and those issues having been misconceived, led to an in appropriate presentation,” Williams noted.
The event opened with a worshipping chant by the Hallejah Group Tasserene, followed by prayers from various Amerindian nations, the Bahai community, the Anglican church, the Muslim community and the Rastafarian Council.
Also in attendance was the Circle of Love group, which was recently renamed the Victoria Regia Quartet.