Message of unity, commitment marks Amerindian Month launching By Abigail Butler
Guyana Chronicle
September 3, 2002

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`By now we should realise that we all need each other to build this beautiful land of ours' - Amerindian Affairs Minister, Ms. Carolyn Rodrigues

ACTING President Sam Hinds has reaffirmed to Amerindians the Government's position to remain committed to their wellbeing and the resolution and reconciliation of issues they find to be important.

According to him, the Government will be no less committed to the indigenous people than to the other peoples who make up Guyana.

Mr. Hinds was at the time addressing a gathering at the Umana Yana in Kingston, Georgetown on Sunday afternoon for the launching of Amerindian Heritage Month. Among those present were Leader of the Opposition, Mr. Desmond Hoyte, several Government Ministers and other officials, diplomats and other dignitaries.

He noted that for Amerindian Month to have real meaning, "other Guyanese must, especially during this month, harken to our Amerindian brothers and sisters and it may well be that in so doing, in recognising how common are our desires and concerns, the residual tensions between members of the two larger groups would be tempered and dissipated".

Amerindian Heritage Month is being observed under the theme, 'Let's unite and celebrate our diversity'. Among the many activities planned are exhibitions, a debating competition, a day of sports at the Georgetown Football Club ground, all-week educational tours, and a cultural extravanganza at the National Cultural Centre in Georgetown later this month.

The Prime Minister, however, admonished the group to be more than just passive participants of activities of this nature.

"...we must seek to know more of ourselves and of each other. It is only in this way that we will be able to appreciate our differences. We must never forget, however, that though we may have different histories and genetic make-up, it is in the coming together of all of the diverse peoples of our country that our Guyana is being created".

Acting President Sam Hinds, in Amerindian head-dress, Health Minister, Dr. Leslie Ramsammy, Amerindian Affairs Minister, Ms. Carolyn Rodrigues and others view items on display. (Cullen-Bess Nelson photos)
He noted that for too long the contributions of Amerindians have been seemingly unnoticed and urged the gathering to include the indigenous people, not only for cultural performances, but in all the various sectors and developmental programmes that are in place in the nation.

However, Mr. Hinds pointed out that there are many challenges in pursuing fuller participation for the Amerindians, including the remoteness of their communities and the thinness of their population, which he said makes it difficult to implement many programmes. Then there is the high cost for transportation, he said.

"But rest assured, the Government sees these facts as but challenges that we together have to overcome. It is for this reason that monies were allocated for the linking of roads in Region Eight (Potaro/Siparuni) and I am now informed that a link has also been created to Region Nine (Upper Takutu/Upper Essequibo) from Region Eight. We are hoping that these roads, which are rudimentary at this stage, will be upgraded steadily so that the cost of transportation will be decreased," he said.

Touching on some areas the Government has invested in for the benefit of Amerindians, Mr. Hinds said that the administration continues to address their education and is working to provide this at a tertiary level to indigenous communities.

In addition, there are various programmes to upgrade persons with potential who were not exposed to secondary education so that they will be able to attend the Cyril Potter College of Education and the University of Guyana, he said.

Mr. Hinds recalled that Cabinet has also approved special arrangements for at least 10 Amerindians to be included in the first batch of students who will be studying in Cuba and that there are other Amerindian students who are benefitting from Ministry of Public Service scholarships.

He said that in the health sector, Amerindians endure difficulties, but the Government is working very hard to provide a reasonable service in the interior areas where most of them live. Several batches of health workers have been trained and the upgrading of their skills is also receiving attention, he said, but added that health workers complain of the lack of drugs in these regions.

Mr. Hinds said the Government is also committed to working towards resolving issues that are close to people's hearts and will certainly aid in Amerindian development. He referred to the revision of the Amerindian Act which he said will hopefully be laid in Parliament in one year's time.

"As we launch Amerindian Month this year, I want to remind us that whilst the culture, the contributions and the concerns of Amerindians will be in our focus, Amerindian Month is a month for all of us - each one of us has a role; each one of us must reflect on our interaction with Amerindians and things Amerindian. I sense a need to call for us to keep the awareness of, and the faith in our common humanity as we interact with each other in circumstances that are often very trying," he stated.

In her message to mark the occasion, Amerindian Affairs Minister, Ms. Carolyn Rodrigues called on Amerindians to be very serious about the tasks before them while they propagate an atmosphere of celebration.

"The world is moving ahead rapidly and we have no choice but to keep up with that pace. We should therefore be striving to educate ourselves, especially our young ones, by inculcating the attitudes and gaining the relevant knowledge, that are necessary for survival in today's world," she said.

"To my fellow Guyanese, I say the time is right for all of us to be aware of the positive things we have contributed to Guyana.

"It is for this reason that the theme 'Let's unite and celebrate our diversity' is so appropriate. By now we should realise that we all need each other to build this beautiful land of ours," Rodrigues added.

The celebrations continued yesterday with an exhibition and sale of art and craft at the Umana Yana.