President restates two-pronged policy for Guyana's first people
Preserving their culture; integrating Amerindians into mainstream society By Abigail Butler
Guyana Chronicle
August 28, 2002

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PRESIDENT Bharrat Jagdeo has restated his Government's intention to pursue a policy that will allow for the preservation of the Amerindian culture while further integrating the indigenous people into mainstream society.

"...Amerindians can become doctors, teachers, Policemen, nurses and so on. But at the same time, we will be providing opportunities for the preservation of their culture," the President told a gathering of Amerindian representatives Monday at the Cheddi Jagan Research Centre, High Street, Georgetown.

The Amerindians are in the capital to participate in a two-week training seminar for the revision of the Amerindian Act.

The seminar, which commenced Monday, will discuss participatory techniques appropriate for orienting communities in preparation and readiness for consultations with the technical team.

There will also be lectures and discussions on recent experiences on the subjects of indigenous rights and relevant international laws.
An explanation of the existing Amerindian Act and the recent recommendations for change, along with the production of a simple guide of the Act in plain English, will be conducted at the workshop.

Noting that Amerindian affairs is a very important item on the Government's agenda, the President said that his administration is putting a lot of effort into Amerindian development. He said, too, that the Government is allocating a lot of resources into the present exercise.

President Jagdeo pointed out that Guyana has a multi-ethnic society and that the only way the country can move forward is if all the ethnic groups in Guyana are comfortable, are not discriminated against, and are treated as equals.

He said the Constitution is one with many safeguard mechanisms so that if people feel they are being 'disadvantaged' because of ethnicity or any other factor, they can go to the Constitution to get redress.

The President said that in some areas it is still very difficult to do this and that the Government is still trying to forge a new type of relationship at the political level in this country.

He suggested that the key thing that should guide the participants' actions is their commitment to see the people of this country move forward. He noted that the involvement of younger people in politics could make a difference since the young people will be able to relate to each other without bringing past baggage to the fore.

President Jagdeo stated that the issue of Amerindian rights is very important and that the Government has to make sure people feel comfortable with the Amerindian Act. He expressed the hope that in the present exercise, participants will talk and listen to the ordinary people across the country.

He said people within communities must have their voices heard.

Hopefully, President Jagdeo said, the seminar will give a clearer view of what the people want, and he promised the full support of the administration throughout the exercise.