Hours before a protest action at Parliament recently, Permanent Secretary of the Amerindian Affairs Ministry, Nigel Dharamlall had threatened village leaders that they will not have access to his office if they supported a United Nations Development Project (UNDP)–funded Community Development Project(CDP).
And the Toshaos were told of the possibility of having their stipends being held back if they were in support of the UNDP project while being urged not to support the Opposition APNU and AFC.
DemWaves recently received an audio of the meeting which took place at the Convention Center on the morning of April 14 , the day of the protest . Days earlier the Opposition had voted down the proposed $1.1B Amerindian Development Fund (ADF)while the Budget Estimates were being scrutinised in the National Assembly.
Prime Minister Samuel Hinds, Amerindian Affairs Minister, Pauline Sukhai and Finance Minister, Dr Ashni Singh were also present at the meeting.
Persons who attended the meeting told DemWaves that they were urged not to support the UNDP project as well as the Opposition. This was confirmed by the tape of the meeting which was undertaken by several Toshaos who noted that they were “confused” by the meeting as well as the political upheavals surrounding the nations’ first people as the 2014Budget was being debated. Several persons also noted that they were awaiting the passage of the budget as well as being able to travel back to their villages before releasing contents of the meeting to the media.
At the meeting an angry Dharamlall told the leaders that they were not welcomed once they supported the UNDP project.
“I don’t want any single one of you to ever again…and I keep saying this all over and over again, any CSO (Community Support Officer) who says that they are working on the UNDP project called the CDP, I want you off the CSO project”, he riled.
He added that,” any Toshao or senior councillor who represents to any village that the CDP is a UNDP project, you don’t have access to my office “. He continued,” I am coming hard-line on people who don’t see the future and who don’t want to be a part of the development of the country”.
They must not receive your support, just like how the destroy you, you must tell them no, he told the Toshaos. He also accused the leaders of being sympathetic of the APA, stating that that body is “in bed with the opposition”. So in as much as APNU and AFC are doing what they are doing in Parliament APA is doing the same things outside in the fields”, he said.
He told the gathering that he has been receiving calls from staff that persons are not fulfilling the objectives of the government administered projects. “ I have been getting calls when my staff went into Moruca and Mabaruma and Matarkai recently when they were doing the monitoring , those were some of the problems we encountered “ , he said , adding ,”so I don’t want that to continue….this belongs to you “.
He also questioned whether the leaders were in support of the Opposition and later asked,” so how many of you think the CSO programme is for employment? (None of you feel so). So we should stop paying you the stipend then? Exactly “.
Minister Sukhai also scolded the Indigenous leaders for showing support to the APA. “Some of you do have affiliations with some of the groups. ..and one is the APA” she said, adding, “that is the level of hypocrisy that is taking place by groups who many of you are associating yourselves with”.
Reports are that several members of the National Toshaos Council (NTC) were unaware of the organised protest action, including the secretary who was in Region 9 at the time. Reports are that the official was not in support of the actions of his colleagues and vented his frustrations via the social media.
According to the Guyana REDD + Investment Fund (GRIFF) website, CDPs were identified and developed by the Amerindian Villages themselves and propose their priority projects to be financed under the GRIF The CDP must be approved by a village general meeting, via consensus or by majority vote. All residents are encouraged and entitled to participate in the entire process. The proposed projects vary in nature but can be categorized into broad sectors such as agriculture, village infrastructure, tourism, manufacturing, Village Business Enterprise, and transportation.
Monies released for the CDP is provided directly to the villages and according to village leaders, this was one of the major reasons why it has not received the support of the Amerindian Affairs Ministry.
On April 10, the combined Opposition voted against the ADF after questioning extensively how the money was expected to be spent. In the end they were dissatisfied with the answers provided by the government.
The contention is that the governing Peoples Progressive Party/Civic’s (PPP/C) support in its traditional East Indian stronghold has been waning, prompting it to woo Amerindians in a bid to regain its simple majority. The PPPC has 32, APNU 26 and AFC 7 seats in the House.