Honorable Minister Sydney Allicock’s address to the 11th Parliament

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In his first address to the new Parliament, Minister of Indigenous People’s Affairs, Mr. Sydney Allicock, opened his address by stating that it was an honor to serve the new government. He also voiced his adulation and congratulation to the new President, His Excellency President David Granger.
To those who were absent from Parliament, Minister Allicock said that they were “missing out on a glorious opportunity to assist in distilling this most impressive task which ought to be undertaken collectively in Guyana’s best interest.” In expressing his willingness to work with the absentees, he stated that, “It is not too late to pick up your tools and join us in this noble task of repositioning and rebuilding this great nation of ours.”
He went on to state that, “As we collectively join hands all across Guyana, we are reminded by His Excellency of our diversity and of the richness therein. We are charged with the responsibility of, inter alia, committing to the resolve of ‘…making Guyana “One Nation”.’ We are, as a people, therefore, steadfastly committed to the task of charting Guyana’s destiny over these next five years and far beyond. We are committed to so do, cognizant of the value of our history as a young nation. We are committed to the President’s vision of using unity as the vehicle to solving our many and varied social and other difficulties. If the demons of crime, disease, ignorance and poverty are indeed to be defeated, then only the angel of unity can help us to accomplish this necessary goal.”
Minister Allicock went on to say that, “Rebuilding our local democracy is essential. Depoliticizing the management of Neighborhood Democratic Councils and, in the case of my ministry, the Indigenous Peoples villages must be our priority.”
He reiterated that his ministry is committed to “ensuring that party politics is removed from the management of the affairs” of the various Amerindian villages.
In improving the capacity of the Indigenous People, the ministry has embarked on the process of having village audits and elections. After this, there will be a National Toshao’s Conference to discuss Indigenous Peoples’ rights and resources.
The minister posited that, “Extreme poverty can only be eliminated through sustained, committed and dedicated efforts. It is known that the Indigenous Peoples populations of the deep hinterland regions of Guyana are more vulnerable to the deleterious effects of the scourge of poverty than any other group in Guyana. For example, the community of Baramita sits on gold, yet the residents live in deplorable poverty. The challenges are many and varied: from community leadership, communications and transportation, to health and education, pure, reliable water supply, affordable electricity and agricultural support. The cure for these difficulties has got to be a process designed to bring relief in a deliberate measurable and sustainable manner.”
“To this end, there will be a number of interventions specific to sustainable economic development. Such projects will especially target women and young people. Women are our village economists, while the young people are the next generation of leaders. There will be partnerships with several non-governmental and international organizations. These partnerships are intended to bring to villages benefits in the areas of: sustainable utilization and management of natural resources, conceptualization and management of micro projects, skills training, life skills, sports, cultural and other social based activities as well as infrastructural improvement,” he said.
Minister Allicock said that the Indigenous People’s Affairs Ministry intends to continue to develop and record the indigenous languages of the nine indigenous peoples. “We will store [the data] for posterity, and the valuable historic, cultural records of the indigenous peoples of Guyana,” he said.
He went on to say that the ministry intends to showcase Guyana’s talented people, and craft programs to develop, preserve and promote the Indigenous Peoples’ rich heritage and to marry it to the rich cultural heritage of other Guyanese brothers and sisters.
The minister went on to say that his ministry strongly believes that “if inequalities are to be something of the past, then urgent, immediate attention will have to be paid to national awareness of the rights of Indigenous Peoples, not only at home here in Guyana, but globally as well.”
Indigenous Peoples need to have better access to the opportunities, facilities and rewards that are available nationally. With that in mind, the ministry intends to have a factual, impartial analysis of the state of affairs of the Indigenous Peoples that will be made public. Thereafter, the ministry will embark on a set of strategic objectives that will chart the course for the elimination of inequalities that affect Guyana’s Indigenous People.
Appropriate education is pivotal to this long-term process. The Bina Hill Institute at Annai in Region Nine – which is similar to the Critchlow Labour College – is an excellent project to build upon. Orealla in Region Six has been identified as one such possible site. Other technical training centers will eventually be set up in each region.
With eco-tourism on the rise, every indigenous community is a potential tourist destination. These communities must now prepare for the sustainable utilization of Guyana’s natural patrimony. There is need for tour guides, tour planners, caterers, interpreters, facility managers, logistics personnel and other skilled people to enable the blooming of tourism-based, sustainable, economic ventures.
Minister Allicock said, “The Indigenous Peoples of Guyana welcome the President’s proposed establishment of a Sovereign Wealth Fund. The Ministry of Indigenous Peoples Affairs views this initiative as a very responsible approach to the management of the revenues earned from our national patrimony. We must determine where such resources are best invested. I say invested, because I believe that every cent of state resources placed towards the development of our people is an investment in our country’s future. I believe that after a careful analysis of our needs as a nation, it will be well established that education, healthcare, public transportation, infrastructure, social security, access to information, and environmental protection are important areas to which such investments should be directed. This fund allows us as a nation to avoid the pitfalls of squander mania and focus on ensuring that our citizens get the best out of every dollar of state resources. I pray that we start to produce oil in the large quantities anticipated. This way, the Sovereign Wealth Fund will become a reality and will go on to benefit the people of Guyana, aiding in the swift removal of poverty from our land.”
For Indigenous People, the forest represents life. It is their kitchen, their medicine cabinet, their home, and their sanctuary. The minister expressed “tremendous delight” that the President made his vision for a Green Guyana clear. “The challenges of climate change are enormous. The pressures of development; or the price of development on countries such as ours could be devastating. Our journey towards sustainable management and use of our natural resources and focus on the use of energy obtained from water, wind and the sun as outlined by our President is indeed the way forward. Our eyes must remain trained on our protected areas. We, therefore, offer our full support to these efforts. Our Ministry’s support in this regard will be manifested in the programs we undertake in the years ahead,” he stated.
The Indigenous Peoples Affairs Minister went on to laud the President’s intention to establish Bartica, Mahdia, Mabaruma and Lethem as towns, stating that, “The necessary legislations will be brought before this House shortly. These hinterland communities each have a significant Indigenous People’s population. These communities have not been benefiting from the attention, services, physical infrastructure, agricultural and other technical support over the past two decades. Now, under the visionary leadership of President Granger, they will become towns with their own mayors and town councils. They will bring their own brand of local democratic governance to the fore. A new culture of [an] accountable government by the people and for the people of those new towns will emerge.”
The minister went on to say that the move “is truly the involvement of the people in the management of their own affairs”. The domino effect of this will be better management, sustainable use and maintenance of public infrastructure, such as hinterland stellings, trails to Indigenous communities, and airstrips in these communities. “The hinterland road, river and air transportation services will improve,” he said. “These interventions can only impact positively on the lives and livelihood of the Indigenous Peoples of Guyana’s coast and hinterland.”
In his closing statement, Minister Allicock declared, “I can see in the not too distant future, positive impact in the areas of social life, education, health care, agriculture and general economic development in our hinterland communities, and by extension, in the lives of our Indigenous Peoples. This marks the beginning of a good life for all Guyanese. Let us, therefore, move forward resolutely together; for in the words of Guyana’s first Executive President: ‘We have a Nation to build; a destiny to mould.’”

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