Amerindians divided on $1B Development Fund; Protest ensues outside Parliament

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By Kurt Campbell

Amerindians protesting in front of Parliament Building. [iNews' Photo]
Amerindians protesting in front of Parliament Building. [iNews’ Photo]
[www.inewsguyana.com] – Scores of Amerindians, inclusive of Toshaos from the National Toshaos Council (NTC) have mounted a protest outside the Parliament building as a signal of their displeasure with the Opposition’s non approval of the $1.1B Amerindian Development Fund.

The protestors, who braved the rain called on the Opposition to reconsider their action since hundreds of Amerindian youths stand to be affected directly and it has the potential to hinder development in Amerindian communities.

“We want development, the Opposition is a waste,” the seemingly angry gathering chanted.

Toshao of Region Two and Vice Chairman of the NTC Joel Fredricks told iNews (www.inewsguyana.com) that he was supporting the protest action because he too feels the move has the potential to hinder development in Amerindian communities.

He said he was angry and displeased, adding that “my message to the opposition and all citizens is that the indigenous people are the first people of this country and their budget should be top priority… we are living in the hinterland and don’t have all opportunities like people in Georgetown, for too long indigenous people have been neglected.”

Amerindians protesting in front of Parliament Building. [iNews' Photo]
Amerindians protesting in front of Parliament Building. [iNews’ Photo]
APNU and AFC in disapproving the funding had expressed concern over “the abuse of the fund” by the government for political purposes.

The two parties said they decided not to support the funding without the assurance that the programme is on a sound, non – political, education foundation and recommended that the fund could better serve Amerindian if the money had been invested in the construction of a technical institute.

Fredricks rejected this reasoning, adding that “we are people, we know how to manage our money we are not those that misuse money, and we know how to do it and develop our selves, give us our money.”

Meanwhile, President of the Amerindian Peoples (APA) Association Sharon Adkinson in an exclusive interview with iNews (www.inewsguyana.com) agreed with the proposal to have the money invested in a technical institute.

Amerindians protesting in front of Parliament Building. [iNews' Photo]
Amerindians protesting in front of Parliament Building. [iNews’ Photo]
She made it clear that she was not taking any political side but said that she was in agreement with the Opposition’s proposal and went on to explain at length the reasons for her position.

Adkinson posited too that adequate consultations were not done, particularly in Santa Rosa from where she hails to determine how the money could best serve the communities.

Amerindian Affairs Minister Pauline Sukhai in responding to questions from the Opposition benches had stated that the programme, designed under the Fund came out of the annual National Toshaos Council.

The House was told that using the US$6 million allocation to the Fund in 2013, milestone disbursements were made to all 26 of the initial beneficiary communities for the implementation of their development plans in promoting sustainable village economies.

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