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PPP, govt quarrel over sacking of nearly 2,000 Amerindians; ‘costly’ programme being reviewed

Junior Minister of Indigenous Peoples Affairs, Valerie Garrido-Lowe

by Zena Henry

The People’s Progressive Party (PPP) has accused government sacking almost 2,000 Community Support Officers (CSO), but the administration on Tuesday countered by claiming that millions of dollars were paid to many of those persons for doing little or nothing.

Junior Minister of Amerindian Affairs, Valerie Garrido-Lowe denied that the CSO programme was being dumped, saying that it was instead being reviewed.

During the party’s weekly press briefing at Freedom House Tuesday July 7, General Secretary Clement Rohee slammed the government for preaching youth development and touting them as “crusaders for national reconciliation” when majority of those out of work are young persons providing support services to their communities. “…it is sad to know that notwithstanding all the rhetoric, the Granger-led de-facto administration has cut lose and thrown onto the bread line 1,972 Community Support Officers (CSOs),” said Rohee.”

These CSO’s, Rohee said ,were unjustly branded “political activists” by the A Partnership for National Unity/ Alliance for Change (APNU+AFC)-led administration. He said they  carried out support services to the Village Councils particularly in the social services sector in  various Amerindian communities in their respective regions .
These persons received a monthly stipend of $30,000 which amounted to some $60m per month paid by the Ministry of Amerindian Affairs.   

The government has noted, however, that the current program was not working.  Junior Minister Garrido-Lowe reminded that the government, while in opposition, had supported a GUY$200 million request made by the former Amerindian Affairs Minister to help in social development skills for the young Amerindians.

“When the former minister came in 2013, the government in opposition then was happy to oblige, but after we started getting reports, it was not working out well.” She said, even the village councils were complaining.
Lowe said many of the young people had nothing much to do but they were, “just there.”
She said the government maintains that the program needs reviewing. She reasoned that the monthly bill for this program is a lot  to pay while simple services and training such as a community plumber is not available in some communities. She noted that government is looking to have more opportunities available to those young CSOs such as scholarships.

Rohee said that the CSO program has been around for more than five years but Lowe refuted that saying it actually started in 2013.

The minister also said that while the PPP claims persons were put out of work and not told about monies owed, she contended that the program had been halted by the former government since April, 2015.

The CSO program was described by critics as a PPP machine that kept the Amerindian villages in line.
Rohee linked the CSO halt to “ongoing witch hunting” since the change in government following the May 11, 2015 general and regional elections.