Georgetown, Guyana – (August 18, 2015) Over the next four days, Indigenous leaders from around the country, will be deliberating on a new ten point strategic, holistic plan for Hinterland development. Head of State David Granger, earlier today, declared the National Toashaos Council 2015 Meeting opened at the Arthur Chung Convention Centre.

During the opening ceremony, the President in his address clearly outlined the plan, which will see the communities becoming thriving economic units, extreme poverty being eradicated, youth unemployment being addressed and increased prosperity realised. “The first such meeting was held 46 years ago in 1969 and its continuation today is a mark of respect for representatives of indigenous peoples of this great country. Your government aims at deepening national unity,” President Granger told the gathering.

Further, the President said his administration is committed to building bridges among all communities and groups, in order to enhance the wellbeing of citizens, in addition to working to bring about inclusionary democracy. With regard to hinterland communities, President Granger pointed out that the frontier layout of many hinterland communities put them at risk of becoming “corridors for illegality”.

He added, “The hinterland’s…forest and pristine waterways are under threat of damage and contamination, its physical infrastructure is inadequate for such a vast territory, it people for the most part are poor, it small scattered population must bear the burden of high cost of living.”

Cognisant of these issues, President Granger reassured the Indigenous leaders that the administration will ensure livelihood is sustained, that the environment is protected and that there is a new approach to hinterland and regional administration.

“Your Government, as a start, iterates its commitment to upgrade the four regional administrative centres; Mabaruma, in the Barima Waini Region, Bartica in the Cuyuni/Mazaruni Region, Mahdia in the Pataro Sipuruni Region and Lethem in the Rupununi Region,” These areas, will achieve township status before Guyana celebrates its 50th Independence next year and will be governed by their own Mayor and Town Councils.

Moving forward, President Granger said the administration is proposing a new partnership between the National Toshao’s Council, which represents 72,000 Guyanese and the Central Government. “We propose to work together for the improvement of the quality of life for all indigenous Guyanese. Your Government is committed to the development of the hinterland and the indigenous communities. We desire to see development with dignity, not with dependency,” the President reaffirmed, even as he outlined the new ten point plan.

Government’s New Ten Point Plan of Action

Hinterland Education Support Programme-This plan will seek to address the issue of the broken public education system, which is now a priority for the new administration, as it will ensure that every school age child gets a sound education. “We shall ensure that every child is able to attend school,” President Granger said. This programme the President explained will ensure too that every child is provided with a nutritious breakfast upon arrival at school while provision will continue to be made for text books, and school uniforms. Over the next five years, the President said his administration will ensure that every school child is transported to school by bicycle, boat or bus. “Our priority will be to ensure that everyone gets a sound education, to prepare him or her for satisfactory employment,” the President stated.

Hinterland Employment and Youth Service-This will replace the Youth Entrepreneurship and Apprenticeship Programme, which expired in April 2015. Under this programme a new scheme will be established that will provide sustainable jobs for youths in hinterland communities. “We do not wish to promote a culture of hand-outs. This is demeaning. We will ensure that although jobs are scarce young school leavers will be provided with skills to employ them for the world of work,” the President outlined. This initiative will also ensure that persons who were employed as Community Support Officers, (CSO) will be employed and continue to receive stipends.

The Hinterland Poverty Reduction Programme-“We are aware thatsocial protection is in crisis. Too many young and very old persons are still classified as very poor with an expenditure level that is below what is required to purchase a daily minimum low cost diet,” President Granger said. It is expected that with the implementation of this plan and good governance poverty in hinterland communities will be reduced and eventually eradicated. The policies to be crafted under this programme will ensure increased wealth in hinterland communities.

Hinterland Infrastructure Extension Programme- This initiative is intended to bridge the gap between the standards of living on the coastlands and the hinterland. “We want economic development for you. We want to see rapid economic conversion between the two zones; the hinterland and the coastland. In order to achieve this conversion, we must improve the physical infrastructure within the hinterland where the vast majority of our indigenous people reside,” the President stated. This programme will be led by the paving of the road between Linden and Lethem, followed by better bridges, aerodromes, stellings, roads, ferries and other forms of transportation.

Hinterland Energy Development Programme-“Your government is committed at ensuring energy security in the hinterland,” the President said. This programme, instead of distributing solar panels, will ensure that all communities will be powered by solar farms, ensuring that all homes and public facilities in hinterland are supplied with solar power to cater to the needs of those communities.  

Hinterland Happy Household Programme-This programme is intended to ensure that investments in economicprojects yield substantial and sustained benefits and create long term job opportunities in indigenous communities. “We also, will under this initiative, promote the safety and security of your communities, free form crime free from harassment,” President Granger explained. This initiative will also address other crime related matters and bring to an end the exploitation of indigenous people. Another component of this programme will cater to boosting economic activities.

Hinterland and Indigenous People Lands Commission-. “Land is life for the indigenous people and we are aware that over the last 49 years, there has still arisen many unresolved land claims and issues. Your government is aware of this problem,” the President said. This Commission will address all issues relating to land titling and land demarcation.

Hinterland Public Service Provision Scheme-This initiative will ensure that the Public Service is extended to all corners of the country including remote hinterland communities. “We want to make your communities and your people better served by the central government,” President Granger told the Indigenous leaders. Under this progamme, citizenship registration will be made available to all hinterland communities.

Hinterland Language Cultural and Sport Service-This programme will ensure that the cultural traditions of indigenous people are preserved, while ensuring improved access to Information and Communication Technology. It will also facilitate the construction of state of the art sport facilities in hinterland communities.

Hinterland Tourism service- “Your government intends to established eco-tourism on a sound economic footing. Guyana’s tourism product is under exploited. We want to established a real hinterland zoological park,” President Granger said. Under this initiative, we will ensure that the many tourism products in the hinterland communities are utilised for the benefit of these communities.

This year’s National Tosahos Council meeting will conclude on Saturday and is being held under the theme “Steadfast Indigenous Leadership Towards Territorial integrity and Sustainable Livelihood”.

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