President makes historic visit to Region Nine
- Commits substantial resources A GINA Feature
Guyana Chronicle
May 23, 2004

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A CHANCE to have a new road, repairs to schools, textbooks for children, a bicycle for a Community Health Worker, salaries for unpaid public servants, solar panels for electricity and agricultural equipment are some of the things that Region Nine communities will remember most from their interactions with President Bharrat Jagdeo.

The Head of State, accompanied by Minister of Amerindian Affairs Carolyn Rodrigues and Public Service Minister Dr. Jennifer Westford, Coordinator of the Hinterland Programme in the Ministry of Education Edward Jarvis, Director of Regional Health Service Dr. Bheri Ramsaran and Juliet Solomon of the Ministry of Amerindian Affairs, travelled by road to Region Nine on May 16.

On their way to the Annai sub-district, the President and his team stopped at Iwokrama International Centre for a meeting with staffers.

There, the President noted that Iwokrama brings to Guyana international recognition and gives to the Amerindians much needed opportunities. The President toured the laboratories at the Centre.

Minister of Amerindian Affairs, Carolyn Rodrigues distributes school items and goodies to students at Karasabai.

President Bharrat Jagdeo addresses public servants, residents, youths and Toshaos at the Wadapna Benab, St. Ignatius, Region Nine. (Pictures by Sandra Prince)

According to President Jagdeo, he is very pleased with the work at Iwokrama. He noted that the Centre has had many successes as well as challenges, especially in sustaining itself financially.

He said these successes have put Guyana on the global scene for Protected Areas Systems.

The President then toured the Canopy Walkway, which was opened in November 2003. This is a series of suspension bridges and decks of up to 30 meters high.

The 150-metre long walkway is a significant sales feature for eco-tourism development.

The President met public servants including teachers and health workers, residents, youth leaders and Toshaos of the 50 communities of the Region. The meetings were held at the four sub-districts Annai, St. Ignatius, Aishalton and Karasabai on May 17 through 20 respectively.

Among the communities that were represented at the meetings are Tiperu, Tiger Pond, Yurong Paru, Karasabai and Rukumuta, Gunn Strip, Achairib, Shea, Maruranau, Awarewarnau, Aishalton, Karaudarnau, Sand Creek, Small Sand Creek, Rupanau, Sawarinau, Shiriri, Potarnau, Baitoon, Shulinab, Katoonarib, Hiowa, Moco, Moco, Quarrie, Nappi, Kaicumbay, Simonie, Yupukari, Katoka, Parishara, St. Ignatius, Kumu, Parikwarinau, Annai Central, Surama, Wowetta, Toka, Aranaputa, Kwatamang, Rupertee, Kwaimatta, Crashwater, Apoteri, Rewa, Fairview, Massara and Yakarinta

The President was in Region Nine to meet residents, mostly Amerindians, and to listen to their concerns. The President wanted to learn from residents about the effectiveness of Government’s programmes in the Region.

President Jagdeo reminded public servants that Government expects a high degree of performance from them and that his administration is committed to working together to solve problems in their communities

He noted that they are the “face of Government” and have an important role to play, to find out if the programmes implemented by government are effective or not. He also urged the health and education workers to familiarise themselves with the national plans for their sectors and see how their roles can help in the bigger picture that Government is trying to achieve.

A sore issue in the Region is the non-payment of several public servants. President Jagdeo instructed the Regional Executive Officer Desmond Kissoon to ensure that these payments are made, as “once people are working for Government they must be paid.”

The REO promised to have many of the payments made by early next month.

The REO was also instructed to sort out the issue of late and non-supplies to school of stationery and other needs, especially at the Annai Secondary School. Teachers complained of having the ‘royal run around’ to obtain items requested.

Teachers are calling for the Schools Broadcast programme to be more readily available to Radio Paiwomak.

The Radio Station has copies of 2001 and 2002 tapes. The President made a commitment to providing of 2003 tapes for each school in Annai.

On the issue of health care delivery, the President said the proposed hospital at Lethem, which will soon be constructed, will solve many of the problems of inadequate health care delivery in the Region. Many of the problems in this sector stemmed from the inability of personnel to perform a high level of medical duties, which they were not trained for. The President said this will be rectified.

He also committed the Government towards fulfilling several requests, including the building of new schools and improving existing ones, water facilities, providing cycles for Community Health Workers to do their jobs better and radio sets for communities, improve transportation access, provide agricultural equipment, text books, computer access, roads and school uniform assistance.

At Annai Primary School, he made several commitments including the provision of $1.5M to fund a new school and resources to expand the Industrial Arts Centre at Annai Secondary School. He also made a commitment to upgrade existing health and water facilities there.

The President agreed to give $4M towards improving facilities including the laboratory at the Aishalton Secondary School. The Regional Chairman Vincent Henry said the Region has undertaken to do this through its budget and at present materials are being sourced to provide the power at the Aishalton Hospital. The school is already wired.

The students who are writing CSEC for the first time also raised concerns about the untimely delivery of examination papers.

President Jagdeo said he will follow up on the issue. He will also check to see if exams are written on the date they are scheduled.

He also announced that Government will be purchasing an additional generator costing $50M for Lethem, since the Moco Moco Hydro Project was destroyed by a mud slide.

Most of the assistance, the President said, will materialise within the next month, as government will fund them through the Regional Administration

President Jagdeo also clarified misconceptions about Government’s 1995 land policy for Amerindian lands. He noted that the exercise is not aimed at disadvantaging the indigenous people, but at giving them legal rights to the lands they have possessed for years.

The government, after a meeting with Amerindians in Paramakatoi in 1995, adopted a policy on land demarcation that sees two phases. Phase One is the demarcation of Amerindian lands while Phase Two will be the granting of extensions of properties as claimed by the Amerindian villages.

There are 120 communities, 76 of which have already been titled, but not all are demarcated. Of those titled, 39 are demarcated.

The government had started the demarcation exercise but encountered problems because the surveyors did not consult with the villagers.

President Jagdeo said the demarcation process is being conducted in accordance with the Amerindian Act of 1951.

In 2002, the Government revised the policy to move ahead with the demarcation process by regions instead of the entire country. This would allow those communities that have been demarcated to move on to Phase Two of the exercise.

“We cannot keep everyone waiting because one or a few communities do not want this,” the President told the residents, adding that it took nearly 40 years to get the demarcation done.

However, because of delays and long waiting periods some communities have to endure, the President said government has decided to amend the policy further and move ahead with the demarcation process by district.

The demarcation process is costing the government about $100 million.

The President urged Amerindians to beware of persons who portray the demarcation process as a “bad thing”.

While in Region Nine, the President also launched the President’s Youth Choice Initiative. Government will be spending more than $50M on several projects including economic ventures in the communities.

The President expressed satisfaction that many youth groups chose economic ventures.

The Head of State said that the monies for the projects will be made available to the communities by next week through the Regional Administration and then disbursed to the various youth leaders. He urged that the communities employ villagers in relevant projects to ensure that employment is created for youths also.

He noted that because of the rainy season, some of the projects will not begin now, but he urged the youths to start preparations. He also urged them and the Toshaos not to abandon the projects once they are started, but to see them through the end, as well as to ensure that they are sustained.

The noted that the projects chosen should be the communities’ decision and not that of any single person, or the government, as it is for the benefit of the young people.

He noted that while the village captains will play a role, the projects must be managed by the youths themselves, with guidance from the communities.

The interns of the Bina Hill Institute also called on the President for assistance in their youth programme and he promised to help with resources. This is to be further explored. He toured Radio Paiwomak complex, which is in the same building.