`No one will take your land'
- President assures Amerindians

Guyana Chronicle
September 17, 2000

AMERINDIANS have raised with President Bharrat Jagdeo concerns about losing their land but he has assured the indigenous people that no one will take it from them.

The issue came up a week ago at Amerindian Heritage Day celebrations at Santa Rosa village in the north west when an Amerindian Captain, from Waramuri, told the President that Amerindians have "deep fears that people are going to take away their land".

The Guyana Information Services (GIS) said Mr Jagdeo noted that some people were stirring up these fears to "deliberately create a situation of uncertainty (and) spread falsehoods simply for narrow, selfish gains".

He noted that in 1969 the land to have been given to Amerindians was identified but from 1969 to 1992 nothing was done to rectify the situation.

President Jagdeo pointed out that when the People's Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/Civic) assumed office in 1992, that was the situation the government found.

The PPP/Civic Government was making progress in addressing that situation, he reported, noting that more than $100M was allocated a few years ago to start demarcating the land that was identified in 1969.

The President promised that titles will be given to the Amerindians allocated land so that they have proof of ownership of their land and then no one can take it from them, GIS said.

"We are fulfilling a promise today that was made since 1969. Our government got into office only a few years ago and we are fulfilling that promise," President Jagdeo stressed.

"That is what we have been doing, but it has been misrepresented all across this country, and you take my word for it - no one will take your land," the Head of State assured Amerindians.

"So when people come around and try to spread fears, find out why they are saying these things. Go behind their motives, because you have some people in this country - right across Guyana - who are hell bent on generating discord and division rather than bringing people together."

They are doing so for "narrow, selfish, political reasons, so do not be fooled...the PPP/Civic Government is going to give you the land and your titles," President Jagdeo added.

GIS said he urged Amerindians to take a leading role in Guyana's development and reiterated the administration's total commitment to development of the country as a whole.

The agency said Mr Jagdeo warned that, in the process of that development, Amerindians must not lose or forget their rich cultural identity.

Hundreds of Amerindians, including Captains from several communities, gathered at Santa Rosa for the Amerindian Heritage Day celebrations there.

Also there were Amerindian Affairs Minister, Mr Vibert De Souza and Public and Communications Minister, Mr Anthony Xavier.

GIS said the President recalled that at the Indian Immigration Day function and Emancipation Day observances in Georgetown earlier this year, he had stated that "my history did not start in 1838 when the first Indians came to this country from India...my history as a Guyanese started with the history of the indigenous people."

A principle that will guide his PPP/Civic Government's policy is that regardless of race, colour or creed, every Guyanese will be treated equally, he said.

He also stressed the importance of education, noting it a priority of his government, the agency said.

"It is important to be educated in this century. Education and knowledge is going to be power...once you are educated you can find the best jobs, you can participate at any level, whether at the government or at the private sector level..."

The President pointed out that several schools were being built or repaired in hinterland communities and scholarships were being offered to Amerindians in the area of educational development.

He said hundreds of Amerindians have scholarships in Georgetown, the President's College or at the University of Guyana.

He noted there were some very bright young Amerindian students at the University of Guyana who are potential Presidents of Guyana.

He said that just recently at Cabinet, it was agreed that if an Amerindian child cannot guarantee a loan to attend the University of Guyana, the government of Guyana will do so.

"I have announced that any person who comes to serve in any hinterland or riverain area will have all their fees wiped out for the University of Guyana," the President also said.

"All our people have to move forward; if one of our groups is left behind then we would have failed. That is our policy in the PPP/Civic government," he stressed.

"We are going to try to bring development here, through whatever means we can, so that while you preserve your culture, the Amerindian people could also integrate...they can finds jobs. They could become technicians, professionals, etc, because that's what it's all about...working for our people."

DeSouza told the gathering that Cabinet had also decided that all Captains of Amerindian villages will be receiving a $7,000 monthly stipend.

The Amerindian Affairs Minister also noted that Santa Rosa Village was one of the largest in the country and so it was decided at Cabinet level that any Captain of Santa Rosa Village will receive a stipend of $10,000.

"I think that is a very wonderful gesture to our captains," he said.

The President also approved the allocation of $30M to the youths of Region One - more specifically to the youths of Mabaruma and surrounding areas ($18M) and the youths of Moruca and surrounding areas ($12M).

This is part of the ongoing countrywide President's Youth Choice programme, an initiative aimed at getting young people involved and playing a much more meaningful role in Guyana's development, and at the same time preparing them as the future leaders of the country, GIS said.

Follow the goings-on in Guyana
in Guyana Today