Eyewitness: Acknowledging…

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…our Indigenous Peoples

If it’s Sept 1st, it must be “Amerindian Heritage Month”!!! When he’d finally taken his rightful place as President of Guyana after the Machiavellian Burnham had rigged elections for 28 years – Cheddi Jagan acknowledged the place of our Indigenous Peoples at the centre of our nation’s foundation by dedicating the entire month of September to them. In 1995, he chose that month because it was on Sept 10, 1957 that Stephen Campbell had become the first Amerindian to be elected to the National Assembly! He was a member of the UF.

Imagine that!! The Dutch started the ball rolling on Guyana all the way back in 1621 when they launched a settlement up in the Essequibo. And it took over 300 years for them to get a seat at the table where the pie was being divvied up! Campbell made good use of that seat because after Burnham coalesced with the UF to oust the PPP, he took Campbell with him up to London to negotiate the terms of Independence. And Campbell demanded – and received – one of those terms acknowledging the Indigenous Peoples rights to the lands they’d been occupying from “time immemorial”. This was incorporated in Annex C of the Independence Agreement!

Burnham didn’t have much wriggle room so he passed an enabling Amerindian Act in 1976 to implement the decision – but never demarcated those lands! It wasn’t until the PPP was in power that they finally amended the Amerindian Act and the demarcation started. Indigenous Peoples were finally getting more than lip service. In 1992 ,it had also been shown that their rate of poverty was twice that of coastlanders – over 70 per cent!! The PPP initiated programmes that continue into the present to bring them on par with their fellow citizens. Which is nothing to write home about, in any case!!

When the PNC snucked back into office in 2015, they reversed many of those programmes. In one of their first acts, they fired 1972 Amerindians previously employed under the Youth Entrepreneurship and Apprenticeship Programme (YEAP)!! This has since been reversed by the PPP and a host of other empowering initiatives have been launched. But what will be the game changer for Indigenous Peoples will be the completion of the Highway from Georgetown with the Linden-Lethem section to finally kick off later this year!!

Finally, they and their villages won’t be locked away in the interior, but will have choices in the economic arena with the new physical connectivity. In the meantime, the communications connectivity and solar electrification have been proceeding apace.
So this Amerindian Heritage Month will see much more than the usual well-meaning platitudes.
They’ll be enjoying their gains under the PPP!!

…murder most foul

Looks like we have much more to learn from next-door Suriname than cooperating on development in general and petroleum in particular! We can learn from how they’ve sought – and continue to seek – justice for the 15 Surinamese Opposition citizens who then de facto President Bouterse had ordered murdered in Dec 1982. He’d seized power in a coup with some other Surinamese Army Sergeants in Feb 1980 and ruled from behind. It was in June the same year that Burnham ordered the assassination of Walter Rodney!

When he became actual President, he dodged the bullet on murder charges (as well as various and sundry drug-smuggling charges) brought by the Dutch by invoking presidential immunity. But as Joe Louis warned “you can run but you can’t hide”. After charges were brought and his party gave him amnesty, a military court (irony of ironies!) scuppered that and he was convicted.

He’s still dodging, but next Monday his 20-year sentence will be confirmed!!
While here, some of Rodney’s comrades are bigging-up Burnham!!

….truth

Your Eyewitness never ceases to be amazed at how some folks can refer positively to Burnham when he was contemptuous of ALL Guyanese by destroying their democratic right to choose their government!
Truth is relative??