DeSouza appeals for unity

by Linda Rutherford
Guyana Chronicle
September 2, 2000

AMERINDIAN Affairs Minister Mr Vibert DeSouza pleaded yesterday for unity and stability amongst the peoples of this country and a rallying together in defence of the nation's sovereignty.

"There must be unity and diversity in our multi-ethnic Guyanese society; and most of all stability in our country. "No one man or woman is better off than the other, and no group of people better or more powerful than the other," he told the fairly large gathering on the lawns of the National Art Gallery, Castellani House, for the annual launch of Amerindian Heritage Month.

De Souza said that just as Guyanese of African descent were proud of their culture and ancestral belonging, so too were the Guyanese of East Indian, Chinese, Portuguese, mixed and Amerindian descent.

"Guyana belongs to all Guyanese and as it is therefore our responsibility no matter what ethnic group, class or religion, we belong to, we must respect each other; love each other; and be our brother's keeper," he said.

Noting that the theme this year was `Promoting Our Culture; Securing Our Future', De Souza said that since the message therein was applicable not only to Amerindians but to all Guyanese, it was only fitting that all citizens must resolve "to unite as one in defence of our sovereign state and strive resolutely to build a prosperous nation for our children and our children's children".

Delivering the feature address, Prime Minister Mr Samuel Hinds, also deliberated upon the theme, noting that the call for culture preservation in particular strikes a sympathetic chord in the heart of every Guyanese.

He said that while it may be a contradiction to want to preserve one's culture and at the same time grasp the benefits that come with development, it was nevertheless achievable. "The answer I think lies in promoting our culture; our way of life; making it known, available and accessible not only to our own children but to all the youths," he said.

The answer, he said, also lay in contributing; donating what has come down to us, to the nation; even to the world. While on the subject, he noted that though the fact has been often overlooked, it was from the Amerindians that the habit of smoking tobacco was developed. And it is to the Amerindians, too, that the world owes the discovery of the medicinal value of curare.

He urged the nation to use this month of awareness to reflect upon the new view of Amerindians and ensure that "we see in them the same potentials we want others to see in us and extend to them the same respect we expect in turn".

Present at the late afternoon ceremony were colleague Ministers of Government, former President Janet Jagan, and members of the diplomatic community.

The evening's proceedings were spiced up with a number of cultural items, including offerings from leading Amerindian poet, Mr Basil Rodrigues, the Couchman family and a dance troupe from the Mainstay/Whyaka Amerindian community on the Essequibo Coast, which was last year designated Amerindian Village of the Year.

This year, the title has been passed on to the Santa Rosa community.

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