‘We will vigorously fight off attempts to block your development’- VP Jagdeo assures Amerindian leaders at NTC conference

Guyana’s Indigenous people are set to benefit tremendously from investments in every sector, and any attempts to stifle or hinder these advancements will be sternly resisted by the People’s Progressive Party/Civic Government.

This assurance was given by Vice President, Dr Bharrat Jagdeo who addressed day two of the National Toshaos Council (NTC) Conference at the Arthur Chung Conference Centre on Tuesday. 

Vice President, Dr Bharrat Jagdeo

The VP clarified a number of misrepresentations peddled by the opposition in its whisper campaign, especially the callous attempts to derail the forest carbon payments allocated to these communities.

The Amerindian People’s Association (APA) had issued a statement accusing the government of violating the tenets of free, prior and informed consent [FPIC] when engaging Amerindian communities, citing the consultation process for the sale of the carbon credits.

However, the vice president reminded that it was following consultations between the government and stakeholders that it was agreed that 15 per cent of all proceeds from the sale of Guyana’s carbon credits would go to Amerindian communities.

“This was money coming to help our people, but they wrote a letter to Norway, to try to block the funds.

“They also misrepresented that in the villages, you had not made any plan. In my report of the 242 villages, 238 have already submitted their plans. It is a whole range of misrepresentation,” he told the leaders.

Dr. Jagdeo said unlike the previous administration, this government is working in accordance with a comprehensive approach to fostering development in Amerindian communities, while simultaneously implementing sustainable, clean energy initiatives to mitigate the effects of climate change.

“We will continue to fight to make sure that this and even more funds come to the Amerindian communities, and it will be significantly more, because this can go up if we manage to get all our forest carbons sold at the same rate. We will fight off, vigorously, any attempts to block this, because it is for our people, and for their development,” the VP reaffirmed.

This is evidenced by the Low Carbon Development Strategy 2030, which serves as a blueprint for creating environmental sustainability and energy security, while also empowering communities.

“We believe there is a pathway to development that could bypass the polluting pathway used by the developed world, which has done immeasurable harm to the environment, and has led to climate change with dire consequences to communities, such as heat waves, and unusual rainfall. We believed there was another way to ensure the prosperity of our people, but not go down that same road.”

Additionally, a key aspect of this commitment to empowering Guyana’s first people is the preservation and protection of their rights.  From the establishment of the NTC to the review of the 2006 Amerindian Act to the constitutional reform to include the Indigenous People’s Commission, the government remains dedicated to ensuring that Indigenous communities have greater representation.

A section of the gathering at day two of the NTC Conference

He pointed out the blatant assault on Amerindian rights that characterised the tenure of the previous government, citing the almost 2000 Community Service Officers (CSOs) who were left unemployed under the administration, as well as the stagnant progress of the Amerindian Land Titling project during that time.

This government’s plan for prosperity encompasses prioritisation of the decentralisation of essential services and resources.

As access to world-class healthcare remains a priority, the VP noted that US$60 million has been set aside for the construction of four major diagnostic centres with teleconferencing capabilities in Regions One, Seven, Eight, And Nine, equipped with modern medical equipment.

Importantly, the necessary infrastructural projects are being facilitated to ensure the ease of travel in these communities. The 2023 budget allocated $5.6 billion for hinterland roads.

On the education side, $4 billion is being expended to build schools in the hinterland, so that students are adequately accommodated to receive quality education.

Job creation also remains a priority, as Dr Jagdeo pointed out that another 1,000 part-time workers have been hired in Region Nine, adding to the over 4, 500 workers currently employed in various hinterland communities.

“The development of these communities is important to us. Every time we make a promise, we have every intention of fulfilling it,” the vice president reiterated.