PPP/C Government Member of Parliament (MP), Alister Charlie, representing Region Nine, expounded impassionedly on the relegation to second class citizens every PNC government, including the David Granger-led coalition administration, had meted out to Guyana’s hinterland communities.
He was addressing the National Assembly last Monday, the opening day of the 2020 Budget debates.
COVID-19 restrictions impelled Parliament to utilise the Arthur Chung Conference Centre (ACCC) to host sittings of the National Assembly.
During his presentation, Charlie iterated that Amerindians in Guyana were denied basic rights by the APNU+AFC over the five years of their tenure in office, with many of the developmental projects and programmes initiated and planned by the previous PPP/C administration either truncated or put on the back burner.
Alluding to the developmental paradigm that had begun the catalysis of transforming hinterland communities to eventual synchronisation with coastal development during the previous PPP/C administration, Charlie adumbrated a menu of measures that had inexorably changed the socio-economic landscape of Amerindian communities into a progressive one; that is, until the advent of coalition governance, when a progressive reversal of Amerindian development transpired during the approximate five years of their tenure in office. The resultant incremental progress through the PPP/C’s consultations with stakeholders in Guyana’s Indigenous peoples’ affairs and consensual approaches to wealth and job-creational initiatives was achieved without compromising Guyana’s first people’s tribal mores and traditions.
In every sector, the previous PPP/C administration had prioritised programmes and projects to enable a better life for hinterland dwellers, primarily with land-titling and a revised Amerindian Act in 2005, which gave Guyana’s first peoples greater protection and security than they ever had under the PNC regime.
Charlie lamented “… it’s misleading when opposition members try to paint a picture that everything was bright and beautiful under their tenure in the Amerindian community, yet, at the level of the village it was a different reality.”
Conversely, he highlighted some of the measures that Budget 2020 projects for Amerindian development, with aggregated socio-economic initiatives planned for prioritised implementation in even the most remote hinterland communities.
Among the multiplicity of projects planned by government for development of hinterland regions is an expansion of the Hinterland Electrification Programme that will benefit in excess of 25,000 households in Amerindian, hinterland, and deep riverine communities.
The education sector will also be targeted for massive transformation and inputs, and each child in hinterland schools, as well as throughout the nation will once again benefit from resumption of the PPP/C’s ‘Because We Care’ initiative, with an annual incremental increase; as well as provision of meals and uniforms.
Charlie also emphasised that the hinterland scholarship programme that enables children from far-flung hinterland regions to acquire secondary and tertiary education will also be boosted.
He recalled that the previous PPP/C Government had provided hinterland dwellers with transportation resources; such as tractors, boats and engines, All Terrain Vehicles, etc, with more and improved roads and infrastructure to create linkages among hinterland communities; all of which the 2020 Budget proposes to improve and increase.
Alluding to the many broken APNU+AFC pre-2015 elections promises, Charlie asserted: “Prior to Election 2020, it was evident that the coalition party, using state funds, were traversing across the hinterland distributing handouts and trying to bribe residents using State resources in their bid for the Amerindian and hinterland residents to give them another chance at the just-concluded elections.
“Despite their best efforts, they could not fool Guyana’s First Peoples a second time. We collectively voted for peace, progress and prosperity of the PPP/C, under the wise and caring leadership of our Vice-President, Dr. Bharrat Jagdeo, our President, Dr. Irfaan Ali and our Prime Minister, Brigadier (ret’d) Mark Phillips.”
After the agonising months, preluding Dr. Irfaan Ali’s swearing-in as President of Guyana, there is palpable relief, hope, and great expectations of a change for a more secure and prosperous future for Guyanese and Budget 2020 solidifies the promise of progress and eventual prosperity for all the people of the Guyanese mosaic.