Message from His Excellency Dr. Mohamed Irfaan Ali on the occasion of Amerindian Heritage Month 2021
I am pleased to extend greetings and best wishes to Guyana’s First Peoples on the occasion of Amerindian Heritage Month 2021. The dedication of the month of September to our indigenous peoples is in accordance with the well-deserved recognition and honour which is due to them and their contributions to our country’s development.
As I noted in my address to the 12th Parliament of the Co-operative Republic of Guyana, our indigenous peoples have been here longer than any other group and occupy a special place as our first people. They too have suffered injustices at the hands of our former colonial masters; they also have suffered dispossession and decimation.
My administration is wholeheartedly committed to improving the lives of our Amerindian brothers and sisters over the next five years and beyond. We will build on our past record of promoting and supporting Amerindian rights and development.
An updated Amerindian Act will become the principal legal instrument for the protection of indigenous peoples’ rights, including guarantees of their entitlement to their lands and rights over those lands. The updated ‘Act’ will entrench provisions that will promote greater Amerindian inclusion in decision-making and greater integration in national development. It will outline an enhanced role for Amerindians in the management of their communities and control over their resources, including measures aimed at protecting the environment and ensuring sustainable development.
As promised, my Government has begun to adopt measures to improve access to the delivery of education, health services, housing, and infrastructure within Amerindian communities. Through the injection of resources into the Amerindian Development Fund, we are also stimulating economic projects in Amerindian villages, thereby generating jobs and providing incomes. Transportation and connectivity are being enhanced. We have been providing resources for improving roads, bridges and airfields in the hinterland. We have also removed VAT on the cost of hinterland travel to make such travel more affordable. Access to Information Communication Technology (ICT) is also being increased across our indigenous communities through the creation of hubs for learning, work and leisure. The lives of our Amerindian brothers and sisters are being made better.
Since we assumed office slightly more than one year ago, we have brought relief to our Amerindian peoples. They have benefitted from Government’s G$25,000 household grant, the education/school grant, and the resuscitation of the Community Support Officers scheme. Hinterland education is being boosted. Schools are being built and renovated. ICT will become a driver of improved hinterland education, and more hinterland students will benefit from scholarships.
Amerindians can look forward to continued investments by the Government in hinterland electricity through an expanded renewable energy programme for indigenous villages. Amerindian culture is an integral part of the rich multicultural tapestry of our nation. We will continue to preserve and celebrate the rich cultural heritage of Guyana’s Amerindian peoples, including their languages, religious and other beliefs, values, traditions, food, art, craft, symbols, dances, music and dances. Indigenous culture will be treasured, safeguarded from erasure or debasement.
As we celebrate Amerindian Heritage Month this year, let us do so in the knowledge that despite the present challenges posed by floods and the COVID-19 pandemic, our Amerindians can be assured that their future is secure. They can look forward to ever-improving standards of living and greater opportunities because of the support and recognition which my Government is paying to Amerindian rights and development.
I wish every success to the moderated events, which will be hosted this year, to celebrate Amerindian Heritage Month as we celebrate their rich cultural legacy and contributions to Guyana’s development.