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…warns against race-baiting
Lenox Shuman, the lone Liberty and Justice Party (LJP) Member of Parliament in the House, threw his support behind the $383.1B Budget proposed by the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) Administration but not before reprimanding the main Opposition – the A Partnership for National Unity + Alliance For Change (APNU+AFC) for what he described as “race baiting.”
As he rose to debate the budget in the National Assembly on Friday, MP Shuman took a hit at the 31 APNU+AFC Parliamentarians, singling out MP Amanza Walton-Desir in the process. He accused the APNU+AFC Parliamentarian of attempting to “cultivate racism” in the House.
MP Walton-Desir, who had kicked started the National Debate on Monday, had frontally addressed the issue of racism as she pointed to the large number of Afro-Guyanese, who have been victimised at the hands of the PPP/C Administration, many of whom were fired. She had also submitted that Indo-Guyanese and Indigenous Guyanese, who are perceived to be supporters of the coalition, have also come under fire by the PPP/C.
But the LJP Member of Parliament told the House that Walton-Desir and by extension, the coalition, are engaging in divisive politics.
Constantly referencing to the APNU+AFC as the People’s National Congress (PNC), the LJP MP turned his attention to the Founding Leader of the PNC and Guyana’s first Executive President, Linden Forbes Sampson Burnham.
Reading a statement he wrote on LFS Burnham’s 98th Birth Anniversary on February 20, 2021, MP Shuman said: “Today would have been 98 years. His stain on this nation led us to the events championed by his prodigy in 2020. A legacy we must never forget. Deserving of no celebration. Nothing to celebrate. Just a mere acknowledgement is plenty a tribute. We still struggle for the nation of dreams for our next generation.”
Shuman accused the main Opposition of resorting to mediocrity, in that of the issue of race, due to their inability to address substantive issues. The Opposition MP urged his colleagues, on his side of the House, to change the “appalling and horrendous behaviour.”
APNU+AFC, in particular MP Ganesh Mahipaul, has often described LJP as a “subset” of the PPP/C. On Friday, MP Shuman had this to say: “Mr Speaker, I say this unapologetically. If it means that I stand on the side of and fight for democracy, then I am a subset; if it means that I have vision for a progressive Guyana, free from oppression, then I am a subset; if it means that I am against dictatorship, then I am a subset; if it means that I am against intellectually bankrupting a country; then I am a subset; if it means that I am for Indigenous rights then I am a subset; and if it means that I am on the side of an inclusive Guyana, then I am most definitely and unapologetically a subset.”
The LJP Member of Parliament said there was no need for him to defend the budget presented by Senior Minister within the Office of the President with responsibility for Finance, Dr. Ashni Singh, because the budget defends itself.
Though not perfect, MP Shuman said the budget, which was presented under the theme ‘A path to recovery, economic dynamism and resilience,’ will repair the damage done during the five years the APNU+AFC was in Government, stabilise the financial grounds and fortify it for a better and more progressive Guyana.
The Indigenous leader applauded the move by the PPP/C Government to allocate $630M for the continuation of the Amerindian Land Titling Programme. He said the $1.6B budgeted for the upgrading of Hinterland Roads, though not most ideal, is “far superior to the next to nothing that was previously budgeted.”
However, he made a pitch for increased funding for toshaos and the National Toshaos’ Council.
“The NTC is in need of funding equal to its task, these are absences that need to be corrected but we cannot only compartmentally look at the budget Mr Speaker, we have to be practical,” he posited but while expressing the hope that in 2022 Budget there will be financial provisions to facilitate an increase in stipend for Toshaos and increase funding for the NTC.
Further, he expressed the hope that in keeping with President Irfaan Ali’s ‘One Guyana Vision,’ the Office of the Prime Minister, in driving the initiative, would be allocated necessary funding for the establishment of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission. “I see this as a starting point to addressing equity, not only for indigenous peoples but for all of Guyana,” he posited.
Also, the LJP MP expressed the hope that come 2022 and beyond, provisions would be made to address the issues raised in the UNICEF Study on the status of Indigenous Women and Children in Guyana. MP Shuman also reminded the PPP/C Administration of its commitment to Constitutional Reform.