Derrick John, Chairman of the National Toshaos Council said, “We are angry, desperate and disappointed because of the brutal axing of our budget which was allocated to us. The opposition has denied us our future; youths have been denied employment opportunities.”
John said the communities need the government’s subvention, and the cut by the combined opposition is unjustified.
“We are totally against it, and we are out here to make our voices heard. We need and we demand respect as Guyanese we have to be treated as Guyanese since we are the first people of this land, we have indigenous representatives who sit on the opposition bench and they have betrayed us…”
John further condemned the act and called on the opposition to give the Amerindians a listening ear and what is rightfully due to them.
Meanwhile Vice Chairman of the NTC, Joel Fredricks who is also the Toshao for Mainstay/Whyaka said he came out to express his disappointment over the budget cut as well.
“I am supporting (the protest) because our budget has been cut which will hinder development in our communities. I want to say to the opposition, and to the people of this land, because we are the first people of this land, we should be given priority”.
Fredricks added that given their geographical locations and because of the fact they do not have equal opportunities like persons living on the coastland, there is much need for the funds that have been cut.
Minister of Amerindian Affairs, Pauline Sukhai who joined the protest and interacted with the crowd described the opposition’s move as “the most disrespectful and damning action that could have been dispelled on Amerindians”.
According to Minister Sukhai, the indigenous people came out to voice their concerns, objections, and disappointment over the cuts for the ADF. She pointed out that within the fund; $796 million has been set aside for training and stipends for Community Support Officers (CSOs) who are placed in various sectors.
The CSOs are youths in various communities who give support in the education sector, acting as teaching aides, they also serve in the health sector and offer maintenance and support to their respective village councils.
“This is an opportunity for our young Amerindians to contribute to their communities and help in developmental projects and the opposition is depriving them of that opportunity.”
The Minister explained that many Amerindian youths have indicated that they would rather work within their communities rather than having to leave for development and employment opportunities.
“I believe the anger you see here has to do with the funds being cut as it is just not youths who will suffer, but the communities at large, since the presidential grants, and economic projects will cease in more than 187 villages.”
Valencia Fredricks, CSO of Kato, Region Eight, expressed her concern over her future. “We need development; if they take away the money what will we do we can’t afford to come to town and work and leave our families behind when we have opportunities right in our community.”
Also, former Chair of the NTC Yvonne Pearson used the opportunity to send a strong message to the combined opposition, calling on them to do what is right for Amerindians and restore the fund.
“We are dissatisfied, we are angry people because we want our rights to development to be recognised, we want what is rightfully ours, and to the six Amerindian parliamentarians who claim that they represent us, we reject what is happening.”
The National Assembly only approved $454M of the $1.554B that was set out for the Ministry of Amerindian Affairs for 2014.
The combined opposition signalled their disapproval for $1.1B which was allocated for the ADF’s projects and programmes, which specifically target and encourage self sufficiency, and economic and social development in the hinterland.
This places in peril the provision for the Youth Entrepreneurship and the Secure Livelihood programme. The latter targets the transformation of economies of Amerindian villages and hinterland communities through several forms of economic diversification. The allocation for the continuation of the Youth Entrepreneurship and Apprenticeship Programme (YEAP) and for its expansion to Regions 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 and 10 will be affected.