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President Irfaan Ali said that Amerindians across the country must benefit from equal access to development opportunities like any other segment of the population. The Head of State made this assertion today as he addressed hundreds of Toshaos and community representatives gathered at the National Conference Centre for the National Toshaos Conference.
ACCESS TO RESOURCES
The President said that while the preservation of the way of life and cultures of the first peoples of this nation are paramount, it must not be at the expense of their best quality of life. As such, he assured that Amerindians will continue to have equal access to resources, including from oil and gas as well as the Low Carbon Development Strategy (LCDS), to uplift their lives and that of their communities.
“We fought hard so that you could have equity; we fought hard so that you can be a part of the process of development….The Government will work every single day to uphold the delicate balance of promoting livelihood and securing your cultural identity and the environment.”
On the importance of the Conference, he reminded that it provides the perfect opportunity for the Government to listen to ideas, needs and perspectives from the respective leaders, craft a plan of action and allocate resources to improve the lives of every Amerindian community across the country.
He said too that as it relates to the theme “Good Governance and Fast Tracking Amerindian Development” the platform also allows for meaningful consultation in the “spirit of good governance”.
“In the principle of good governance, we have to consult with people. We have to listen to people.”
President Ali said that billions have been injected to enhance the quality of life of the indigenous population.
“In less than two years, more than $50bn have been invested in Amerindian communities.”
These investments were made in various sectors, including water. The goal, the President added, is to provide 100% access to safe water by 2025.
“We have made it clear for Amerindian villages water will remain a social good. What that means is that for your villages, as long as we are here, you will not have to pay for that water. That will be a cost that the Government will absorb. For you and your communities, it’s treated primarily for its social good and social value, not as an economic commodity.”
The President said too that more resources are earmarked to further enhance the quality of life in several areas, including agriculture, education, health, housing infrastructure and tourism.
He encouraged the leaders present to speak openly during consultative engagements this week and to be assured that government representatives are there to listen.
“Our plan is a simple plan; it is a plan that seeks to involve you in determining what is best for you and in charting a course that will deliver the best quality of life for you.”
President Ali announced that indigenous community leaders will see a significant increase in their stipends. Toshaos and Deputy Toshaos will get a 50% increase in their stipends, moving from $30,000 to $45,000 and $20,000 to $30,000 respectively. Indigenous Community Senior Councillors and Regional Councillors from all the administrative regions of Guyana will receive an increase of $15,000 to $25,000; and $10,000 to $30,000 respectively.
In her remarks, the Minister of Amerindian Affairs, the Honourable Pauline Sukhai said the conference’s theme signals Government’s approach to servicing Amerindian Development under ‘One Guyana’.
Meanwhile, two absolute grants and five certificates of titles were presented to indigenous communities in Regions Two, Seven and Nine.
The five-day event is being held at the Arthur Chung Conference Centre under the theme “Good Governance and Fast-Tracking Amerindian Development”.
The Head of State was joined by Prime Minister, Brigadier (Ret’d), the Honourable Mark Phillips; Vice President, the Honourable Dr Bharrat Jagdeo; Ministers of the Government, members of the diplomatic community; Belizean Minister of Labour, Local Government and Rural Development, the Honourable Oscar Requena and indigenous leaders from across the country.