Representative of the Joinder Parties in the National Assembly, Lenox Shuman on Friday evening related that while the proposed 2021 National Budget is not perfect, it contains far more superior benefits for Indigenous people than they got during the five years under the PNC-led coalition Administration.
Making his contributions to the Budget Debates, Shuman, the leader of the Liberty and Justice Party (LJP) and also Deputy Speaker of the 12th Parliament, declared that he will not defend the PPP/C’s Government second budget since the budget – titled A path to recovery, economic dynamism and resilience – defends itself.
“I do not need to defend the budget, the budget defends itself… Considering where we are at this juncture in the country’s history and considering where we were in the last five years, the budget is not perfect. But it is to repair the damage, to stabilise the financial ground and to fortify for a better and more progressive Guyana…,” he stated.
The former Toshao highlighted some of the budgeted projects that will benefit Indigenous communities such as Land Titling.
“That we have $630 million for the revival of the Amerindian Land Titling programme is far superior than what was done under the PNC rule for the last five years. The entire Annai sub-district was gazetted as an NDC (Neighbourhood Democratic Council) thus revoking the land titling of the Indigenous peoples of that area, which is a clear violation of the multitude of international laws,” he pointed out. Shuman further noted that while the $1.6 billion earmarked for upgrading hinterland roads is not the most ideal, it is still far superior to what was previously budgeted by the Coalition.
“I cannot disagree with progress… The ADF (Amerindian Development Fund) is replenished to the tune of $1.5 billion. How can I be against anything that stands to benefit the most marginalised population of this country?” the LJP leader contended.
Meanwhile, Shuman also outlined some areas that were not addressed in the budget such as a much-needed increase in Toshaos’ stipends and funding for the National Toshaos Council. He also called for the establishment of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which is muched need to build cohesion.
The Opposition MP further voiced his expectation that future budgets incorporate the UNICEF study on the Status of Indigenous Women and Children. He also sought to reminded the PPP/C Government of its commitment to not only revise the Amerindian Act but also to Constitutional Reform.
Notwithstanding, the LJP Leader commended the Government for consulting with the small parties in preparation of the 2021 budget.
According to Shuman, the people of Guyana almost one year ago on March 2, 2020, endorsed the vision presented by the PPP/C and as Opposition, they have an obligation to hold the Government accountable.
“I implore you, we have to up our game. You have to up your game… We must conduct ourselves with integrity if we’re to ensure that the people are primary beneficiaries of the budget… and the answer is not to pander to race,” he said to the APNU/AFC parliamentarians.
The LJP Leader added that, “If you lack substance, lack relevance and lack moral and ethical fortitude to say you lost the elections, do you, yourself and our future generations a disservice by reclusing to race-baiting.”
On this note, Shuman lambasted several coalition parliamentarians for driving racism in the National Assembly. He contended that before Guyana can heal as a nation, it must first identify where it is hurting and work to fix that.
“But race is not the answer… When you lack substance, the default cannot be race. It is unbecoming of a nation that is 54 years old,” the Deputy Speaker noted.
Shuman’s LJP partnered with A New and Unity Guyana (ANUG) and The New Movement (TNM) to enter into a Joinder arrangement and secured one seat with their combined 5000-plus votes. The three parties have agreed to take turns in having a representative in the National Assembly.