(25 October 2015)
Minister of Education,
Members of the Diplomatic Corps,
Members of the National Assembly,
Regional Chairman Mr. David Armogan,
Representatives of the Non-Governmental Organizations, particularly the IMC here in Rose Hall,
Representatives of the Private Sector,
Representatives of other Non-Governmental Organizations,
Awardees of the Rose Hall Town Youth and Sports Club,
Members of the media,
I know long ago Canje used to be famous for its manatees. I thought I would be getting a Manatee Award instead of a Dolphin Award. I don’t know what has happened to the manatees of Canje; maybe too much manatee souse, but I am very grateful for this kind reception and for being inducted as a member of this Club and as an awardee of the Dolphin Award for Excellence.
I am grateful and I will certainly treasure these awards this morning.
I would like to join in congratulating the Rose Hall Town Youth and Sports Club on this happy occasion of its Silver Jubilee.
Over the last 25 years, we know that the Club has etched its name in the annals of sport organizations; not only in this region, but in this country. The sheer volume of its projects, its success on and off the field, and its contributions to this community has made it a household name in the East Berbice-Corentyne region.
We congratulate you on your achievements. We congratulate you on this silver anniversary and we congratulate all those who are being honoured today. We extend our best wishes to your leadership, your president and other officials, and to all of the members of the Club.
I was asked to make a few remarks on my vision for youth. What I would say is that this country has to be handed over to the youth. Old people can’t take this country where they’re going. We have to give it to the youth and it is our job, first and foremost, to ensure that youth are prepared to take control of this country; the whole country because here in the East Berbice-Corentyne Region there are some people who want to take 15,000 km² off of your land.
I expect that you will know what to do when the bell rings because we are not giving up a blade of grass. So you are one of the frontline regions, part of which is being claimed by another country. How did they claim this? They got into their Parliament and somebody passed a resolution that this river is no longer New River; it is called the Upper Corentyne. Can you imagine that?
They changed the name of the New River to Boven Corantijin; Upper Corentyne (just like that) in five minutes, the Parliament has seized 15,000 km² of Guyanese territory. So I am backing you East Berbice-Corentyne. You need to make it clear that you are not giving up one square inch, one square metre of your territory.
We have to hand this whole country over to our children just as we received it from our ancestors. We want to make all young people happy to stay in Guyana. Unfortunately in this Region, as we know this region is a unique one in Guyana because the population is falling -You all have to go out there and make more babies (Only the men are clapping) and by the way, let me tell you about the songs that you have been singing; there are different types of folk songs. (Everything ain’t suited for Sunday morning: you have songs you sing at que-que, you have work songs, you have patriotic songs, “dah nah Sunday morning songs”.) So I expect a little bit more political correctness.
We have to grow up; the times when those songs were written we had a different outlook, but the outlook for the future does not accommodate some of the words that I heard. So GuySuCo Training School please have those songs edited yourself; I don’t want to have to edit them myself. So please be more politically correct, Sunday or no Sunday.
My main message to you Rose Hall is a message of education. When I speak of youth, I think of education. Education is the gateway through which you must pass if you want to have the good life. Our young people deserve quality education and, particularly, those who live in rural and hinterland areas must not feel that they have to migrate to the urban centres; must not feel that they have to go to Nickerie or to Venezuela or Brazil in order to have a good life. Right here in East Berbice-Corentyne, you can have that good life.
You don’t have to go to Boa Vista! Right here, you are a blessed Region. No other Region in this country has three towns. Some regions have no towns, I am going to fix that, but you are one of the most developed regions – the commercial cutting edge of this country. You mustn’t be famous only for backtracking and suicide, Mr Chairman. You must also be famous for commerce, for sport, for production for a booming economy and for us to go that way we have to make sure that the quality of education in East Berbice-Corentyne is second to none.
Children, if they are educated, if they are employed, they will want to stay here. Education will free our young people from the entrapments of crime, drug abuse, of alcoholism, of teenage pregnancy, of suicide. When a young person is a university graduate, he or she will think twice about some of these social problems. As I told the ladies and gentlemen in Black Bush Polder a couple of hours ago, ‘happy people don’t kill themselves’ and we want East Berbice-Corentyne to be happy a region.
You have a happy Chairman and we want everybody to be happy. He is not going to kill himself; he is not going to commit suicide. So I want you find out what the secret is; I want you to take hold of education, take hold of the economic opportunities, which are made available to you through education.
In addition to being educated, I want to see more children in East Berbice-Corentyne becoming entrepreneurs, starting up their own businesses, becoming self-employed. You can’t always look to government for jobs. You can create many of those jobs right here, in this Region. We also want to see young people taking greater opportunities in recreation and sport and that is why I am so glad to be here today to see the good work that this Club has been doing. There must be more clubs like this throughout the region and throughout the country.
I don’t want to see young people having to go to extra lessons or to fetch water. I want to see them being able to enjoy leisure. The classes must be well run, the schools must be well equipped; functioning toilets, functioning laboratories, so that young people can pay attention to their studies and graduate and seek employment in the fields of their choice.
So in terms of my vision for youth, we have gone past the stage of simply giving them a few handouts. We want to see young people having real jobs; full employment, over a long term. That is why I am so glad, a few minutes ago, to have been able to present those bicycles. You can call me the ‘three Bs’ man because I want to make sure that every child wherever he or she comes from… they must be able to go to school; every child in school. That is why the bikes are important, that is why the boats are important, and that is why the buses are important.
When my birthday comes around I don’t ask for gold and silver, I ask for transport to get children to school. Children must get food when they go to school if they don’t have food at home. They must have [transportation] to get to school if their parents can’t afford it. They must have shoes to wear, they must have books to read and you will see how this region will turn around. Suicide will fall, unemployment will fall, and prosperity will rise.
I have also been asked to speak about some of the values, and let me speak briefly state what those five values I feel are most dear to young people:
First of all is the value of duty. Duty is important in every organization. If the laws of those organizations, those clubs or NGOs are not observed; society will fall apart. The Rose Hall Town Youth and Sports Club inculcates the value of duty- a sense of duty. That is why it has survived 25 years because people come out every day performing their duty; they have a feeling inside them. This is not for profit, this is not about self; they know that other people rely on them that other people depend on them, and that gives them that sense of duty.
Duty is something that you have to learn, you have to be taught. You can’t pick it from a tree. Sometimes people are not born with duty; a sense of duty, so it has to be inculcated when they come into organizations like this.
There must be a sense of discipline. Discipline encourages purposefulness. I don’t mean harsh discipline, like flogging in schools, I don’t believe in flogging at home, (licks). Sometimes when you show children an example, you don’t have to whip them. You could be able to encourage that discipline and the best form of discipline is self-discipline. Children imitate their elders so when a teacher sees a child misbehaving, that teacher should go and see where the child is living, where the child comes from, because that is where the indiscipline might start.
So we have, together, to deal with the problem of indiscipline, not a wild cane but in the home, in the Mandir, in the Masjid, in the Churches, in the clubs and in the non-governmental organizations.
Third, there must be a sense of responsibility. Again, that sense of responsibility does not come overnight and you have here a great example, that this club is called The Rose Hall Town Youth and Sports Club, because its first responsibility is to the Rose Hall Town. It has a sense of responsibility to this community which made it. “It navel string hey, born and grow here”, and I am glad for that. I wish every town… and if you continue to watch the headlines, you’re gonna get four more towns just now. Every region must have a town not just East Berbice-Corentyne, every region must have a town. I will talk about that later, towns are important too. It is that sense of responsibility, along with that sense of responsibility; I would like to link the next quality which is the sense of identity.
I am proud of going to school at Auchlyne it used to be called the Auchlyne Church of Scotland School. Any time I pass there I have to look because it is the same old barrack-room. I am proud of growing up in Whim, I am proud of Auchlyne. I am proud of going to an Angelican church at Port Mourant.
I am proud of what I have achieved in life. That gives me a sense of identity; that is why I am here instead of looking at the television in Brooklyn. I am here at Rose Hall on Sunday morning. My identity is that of a Guyanese and I am proud that on the 16th May to announce that I am not President of the PNC, I’m not President of the APNU-AFC; I’m President of all Guyana.
I would like to encourage you to build up that sense of identity, not only in Rose Hall Town Youth and Sports Club but throughout the Region. Whenever you speak to your eastern neighbours they will tell you about the New River- that is their identity (It is the wrong identity!) but your identity must also be strong citizens. It’s our territory; it’s our region and you’re not getting it.
That identity is what binds us together. We are one people, we are Guyanese people and everything you have in this great region – the rice, the sugar, the fish, you must be able to develop because this is part of your prosperity, part of your identity, part of what you have inherited and part of what you will pass on to your children.
Finally, in running any organization there has to be what I would call integrity. If you are a thief, a thief man; if you’re a conman; you will never be successful. Maybe you can fill your pockets for a while, but what you take for yourself means that somebody gets less. If you go to every community you will discover that there are problems but, believe me, I have been to every region in this country and practically every village; as the Chairman was saying, I was here on the 1st August and I went into three villages and that was just in one day and before close of play today, I will be batting in New Amsterdam, having come from Black Bush Polder. So I understand what it is to be affiliated to or to belong to an entire community, an entire country. But if we are to succeed, we have to understand as the song goes, “we have to stand on somebody else’s shoulder” we didn’t get here on our own, if our father is a thief-man our mother is a thief- man woman concerned only with self-enrichment, some of us would never be here.
If the Foster clan was concerned with self-enrichment we wouldn’t be here today. But it is because these organizations had been run on the basis of integrity, because the region is run on the base of integrity; that is how we are able to garner limited resources and use those resources for the greater good.
This is the stage that we are at in Guyana. All over this country I can see potential. This is the biggest country in the Caribbean Community; no other country in the Caribbean Community has resources that can compare with Guyana, but we must approach the exploitation of those resources with a spirit, a desire, a principle of integrity and that we use those resources for the common good. We must not plunder this country because we are robbing the next generation of their entitlement.
So in everything that we do, there must be a feeling, a sense of integrity so that people will trust us. These organizations that we have around us have received gifts from all over the world; from Mexico, from Japan, from Britain, from Germany. If they thought that we are a thiefin’ lot of people, with no integrity, that would not happen.
So I congratulate you on what you have achieved so far and I leave with you those five values: duty, discipline, responsibility, identity (knowing who you are) and of integrity.
Rose Hall, it is a pleasure for me to stand here today. Once again, I thank you for your gifts. I am happy to share with you this silver jubilee and I wish you continued success in your work among young people, your work among members of this community and your work in this blessed Region.
Thank you and May God bless you all.