A Partnership for National Unity is blaming the People’s Progressive Party/Civic administration for the unsafe environment, underdevelopment of physical infrastructure, unsettled Amerindian land issues and the widespread uneasiness among residents in the Amerindian.
APNU recalls that scores of Amerindian protestors had to travel from the distant Barima-Waini, Cuyuni-Mazaruni and Rupununi Regions to protest in front of the National Assembly and the Ministry of Amerindian Affairs on 7th – 9th August. The protest – timed to coincide with the International Day of the World’s Indigenous People in August – called attention to unsettled land issues. These included titling and the conflicts with miners who occupy these lands. The unworthy response of the Ministry of Amerindian Affairs was to dismiss the protest “as nothing more than an advocacy group trying to boost [its] significance.”
The Ministry of Human Services is still to bring the scourge of trafficking in persons in the hinterland under control. The crime received scant attention from the administration until the Guyana Women Miners’ Organisation started to rescue girls who had been trafficked and APNU piloted a resolution in the National Assembly demanding a Commission of Inquiry. It is a notorious fact that girls have been trafficked to brothels near the mining camps and timber grants for sexual exploitation.
The Ministry of Education seems to have been paralysed to learn that failure rates at the annual National Grade Six Assessment examinations are astronomically high in the hinterland with the majority of children failing all four subjects. Dropout rates for boys and girls in primary and secondary schools in hinterland are double the rates for the coastland. The Ministry of Education, however, blames the hinterland children for their own poor performance on account of their “emotional problems, early adult responsibilities, learning disabilities and parenthood.”
The Ministry of Amerindian Affairs, instead of grappling with the serious problem of student underperformance, launched a $200M, unsubstantial, six-month Youth Apprenticeship and Entrepreneur Programme (YAEP) for youths to be trained in culture, education, governance, health and sports instead of educational and vocational skills.
The Ministry of Home Affairs, on the basis of remarks made at the recent economic forum at the Guyana International Conference Centre, seems to be delusional. It feels that, despite the rising rate of serious crime, the security and public security situation in the country was ‘normal.’ The absence of “wars, riots, and bombings” was cited as proof. Crime, on the contrary, is rampant in the hinterland. Banditry, contraband smuggling, robbery under arms, narcotics-trafficking and gun-running is indeed prevalent. Bandits easily exploit the Guyana Police Force’s lack of resources and inability to effectively patrol the hinterland in order to commit violent crimes. Armed robbery with violence is a frequent occurrence and it is easy for assailants to escape.
The Ministry of Health is still to launch a serious anti-malaria campaign, apart from distributing hundreds of mosquito nets in communities affected by the disease. The outbreak of gastro-enteritis in the Barima-Waini Region which caused the deaths ten children and affected over 500 others in the first quarter of 2013 is still to be investigated.
The Ministry of Public Works has been unable to make hinterland roads more accessible and bridges safer. There have been a number of fatal accidents largely because of the administration’s reluctance to invest in building proper roads. Official attempts to blame the condition of roadways – such as Kwakwani- Ituni and Linden road corridors – on “unusual weather patterns” are nonsensical.
A Partnership for National Unity now calls on the People’s Progressive Party Civic administration to radically change its hinterland development policy, if at all it has one. The administration needs to create a secure environment for Amerindian and other residents, visitors and investors; it needs to improve the standard of education and adopt genuine technical and vocational training for youths; it needs to introduce a new policy to the rehabilitation and construction of safe bridges, roads and other physical infrastructure.