Norton says development far from being realized
Guyana (Stabroek News) - Development in Amerindian communities is far from being realized says PNCR-1G Member of Parliament (MP), Dr. George Norton but Minister of Amerindian Affairs, Pauline Sukhai strongly rebutted this and pointed to a new initiative to secure livelihoods.
Norton’s charge of under-development in Amerindian communities came as he joined in debating the 2009 Budget at Parliament. He declared that on his visits to hinterland communities, he has been hearing residents using words such as discrimination and oppressed to describe their situation.
He said that the residents faced problems such as lack of jobs, no markets for produce, lack of water supply and poor infrastructure. Norton named several communities, such as Mabaruma and Annai among others, where, he said, these problems were prevalent. In Mabaruma, he said, no water flowed through the pipes, though money was allocated for the rehabilitation of the area’s well, in last year’s budget. Norton declared that with regard to infrastructure, there were many in various communities, in need of repairs and rehabilitation. With regard to money budgeted for the airstrip at Mahdia, he questioned the necessity of that project stating that other communities were more in need.
The MP however noted that the Region Eight community needs a reliable supply of electricity.
Further, Norton pointed out, the hospitals at Mabaruma, Linden and Lethem are still to come on stream, with the one at Lethem encountering problems such as cracked walls, leaking roof and an unstable electrical system. He added that there was a staff shortage in the health sector country-wide.
Fellow PNCR-1G MP, Desmond Fernandes adding his voice to the debate stated that it seemed that some people are more equal than some and referring to hinterland residents being unable to access television and radio signals, stated that in the age of advanced science and technology, all peoples should be given equal opportunities.
He declared that at Matthew’s Ridge the roads and the lights are “bad” but there is nothing mentioned in the Budget for the community except for the rehabilitation of a guest house. “It is important that we spend the money wisely”, he stated. He disclosed that several machines purchased by the region had quickly broken down.
But in a robust defence of Government’s policy, Sukhai declared that Norton had painted a dismal picture of the situation in Amerindian communities stating that 2008 was “positively eventful” and changes occurred at the Ministerial level resulting in a strengthened number of Amerindians at the policy-making levels and at cabinet. She asserted that last year the Ministry successfully delivered all the goods and services that were budgeted for to support Amerindian development.
Describing the Budget as “Guyana’s stimulus programme”, she declared that the PPP government can be described as a “creative government” exemplified by their sustaining political cohesion and encouraging an emerging social compact with stakeholders through dialogue and engagement at the national level.
The Amerindian Affairs Minister stated that the Hinterland Regional Budget will deal with the issues raised by Norton.
“That budget is crafted in favour of further adding to increased investment in hinterland educational opportunities at the nursery to secondary levels”, she declared. She had noted that the construction of the new student hostel at Liliendaal for hinterland students studying in the city, will commence this year
Giving a list of achievements by her Ministry, Sukhai stated that each year the Ministry executes a grant fund for economic and community development projects and last year over 100 communities embarked on and completed several projects.
She asserted the 2009 Budget highlights continued focus on new and emerging sectors, some of which will impact on hinterland communities.
She stated that this year the Ministry will embark on securing the livelihood of Amerindians and will be facilitating various initiatives commencing with a Hinterland Secure Livelihood Strategy.
She asserted that the Ministry will aggressively pursue support for emerging enterprises for communities and settlements within the Ministry of Agriculture’s READ project.
According to the minister, should one visit the Rupununi, the “tarnished image” presented by Norton would “very well be dismissed”.
She declared that the region has moved ahead and listing some projects that will commence this year including the delineation of the boundaries of the Kanuku Mountain Protected Area.
Sukhai further noted that a number of roads and bridges will be constructed in several communities while the completion and rehabilitation of schools is also on the cards. She declared that there is a long list of water projects to be undertaken this year and most, if not all of the villages have health huts. Their lives have been greatly enhanced, she declared.
Rounding off Monday night’s session, which ended at around 11 pm, PPP/C MP Farouk Mohamed stated that there has been development in Region Two and it is moving ahead at an accelerated pace.
If one could not see this, he said, he would arrange for them to be on the Cuban Mission Miracle programme, which deals with eyesight.
Source: Stabroek News
Author: Gaulbert Sutherland