His Excellency, President David Granger: Ministers of the Government: Amna Ally, Minster of Social Cohesion; Minister Annette Ferguson, Minister within the Ministry of Public Infrastructure, residents and citizens of Charity. I recognize Mr. Alfro Alphonso, of course, a prominent citizen; I think he’s running for Mayor, you know. I think he wants to be the first Mayor of Charity. Members of the religious community, pastors, imam, pandit, thank you for your prayers and your good wishes, all residents of Charity.
Today, I am very happy to be here in the Pomeroon again. The day after tomorrow will be Christmas; so let me start by wishing you a happy Christmas whether you’re a Hindu, Christian or Muslim. I think you all know that this is a miraculous day in the history of the world – the birth of Jesus Christ. He came not to wage war but to bring peace; He came not out of hatred but out of goodwill. So whichever religion you are from, whichever part of the world you are from, the 25th of December is a happy occasion and this is one of the main reasons why I’m here. And also, being at Charity today is an occasion for the reception of a gift not to me, but to the children of this country.
I was sworn in as President of this country on the 16th May and I said then “I know I’m leader of the PNC, I know I’m leader of the APNU, I know I’m leader of the Coalition, but I’m President of all Guyana.” All Guyana! And I’m here today not representing a party, not representing a Coalition, but speaking on behalf of Guyanese people, Guyanese children.
The other thing is that I believe in one Guyana not only all Guyana but one Guyana. If I’m President of all Guyana I cannot differentiate between Charity and Corriverton, between Port Mourant and Devonshire Castle. I believe in one country. So it means that, if children in one part of the country can get to school, if children in one part of the country can get access to good education, to meals, transportation, it means that all other children must get similar access. We can’t do it overnight, but we can’t have any children being left behind.
So even before I came into office, I said every child must be in school – ECIS, Every Child in School. I am sure if Guyanese got their children to school this country would turn around in no time at all. Poverty would be eliminated. Inequalities would be removed. We’d have roads, we’d have bridges, we’d have culverts, we’d have better airports, stronger regions – if we had an educated population.
Right now, more than 4,000 children drop out of school every year. As President, I cannot have that. What I can have is the citizens of this country pledging and ensuring that their children get to school. That is why I was so happy on the 15th July when my good friend Alfro Alphonso stepped forward and we launched this great movement of “Boats, Buses and Bicycles”. We presented the first boat right here in this river, right here in Charity, right here for Pomeroon and their children.
Since then we have had two, three, four, five boats and that is the spirit of being Guyanese because giving these boats is a public good; it is not an act of selfishness; it is not an act of greed; it is not a matter of supporting one party or another party – supporting all dem pinkney dem.
Mr. Alphonso you have to send lights into these communities. I believe there is too much darkness. I think if they had lights they would watch TV when the night come, but now they don’t have TV, they don’t have light, every time I go there I see more and more children. I don’t know what is going on; something in the coconut water?
I must congratulate Region Two. The population is increasing by leaps and bounds, but it means too that we have to increase the resources and the facilities to ensure that every single child gets to school. Too many children are being left behind. I’d like to thank the donor, Mr. Kumar Lallbachan, and the others who contributed to this project today: Mr. Linus Rodrigues, Mr. Michael Harkah and Mr. Deon Saul.
I would like also to thank all of the other persons who have contributed thousands of pairs of shoes because sometimes you go into these villages, you know very well children have no shoes. Those children along the roadway, along the highway, who have to walk great distances – we’re trying to get bicycles to them and those along the Pomeroon. As you know, the Pomeroon is the highway and if children are to move from community to community, from Grant to Grant to come here to Charity to go to school, we need to ensure that they have the transportation. I will not give up. Every single river and creek must get boats. I don’t want to go into any community at ten o’clock in the morning and see children not at school, during school hours.
I want to see that we as a community – not as a government, not as a political party – as a community, let us take responsibility for our fellow citizens and make sure that those children get to school and one of those days, as the Bible says, “Cast your bread upon the waters…”, those children will come back and say, ‘Mr. Lallbachan, I heard you were the person who donated the boat. Mr. Alphonso, I heard you were one of the persons who donated a boat; if I didn’t get that boat ‘meh nah bin guh school’. If I did not get that boat, I would not have gone to school.
Let me tell you something, Pomeroon. I didn’t lie down in my hammock one day and dream up this thing about boats, you know. The idea came from this very river. The idea came from a father who told me he has to pay six thousand dollar a week to get his child to school. I said that can’t be right.
Right here when I was campaigning, people told me about their experiences and I vowed that when I got in to office (because I know you all would’ve voted for me, you know) I would make sure that I did everything possible to ensure that those children got to school. And I’m very, very satisfied with the response that I’ve had over the last five months. I am very, very grateful.
Today, as I said, we are preparing for Christmas. Tomorrow is Youman Nabi and I give greetings to my Muslim brothers. I hope you all have a very pleasant celebration of the birthday of the Holy Prophet, (upon whom be peace) a blessed celebration. For the Christians, its Christmas Eve Day and I’m sure they’ll be putting their houses away, cooking , getting ready to welcome their families; but today, right here at Charity, I have received the greatest Christmas gift of all; the gift of a boat to make sure that children can get to school.
Next year, on the 26th of May, we will be celebrating the 50th Anniversary of Independence. For me, it’s a major celebration, not because it’s going to be a big birthday party, not because there is going to be a lot of revelry and drinking and dancing, but because I was alive and alert and aware – some of you I see by your grey hair, not Alfro, his hair is black – those of us who have grey hair would remember that this country was born in very difficult circumstances; just let me put it like that.
Next year, on the 26th of May, I want us to banish those difficult circumstances; I want this country to celebrate its unity. On the 26th of May 1966, people were in detention under the British Government; we were divided, some people boycotted the celebrations, and people boycotted Independence Constitutional Talks. Let next year May, just five months away, be a time of coming together, a time of unity. When Mr. Lallbachan contributed this boat he didn’t say, ‘this is for Portuguese children,’ he didn’t say, ‘this boat is for Indian children, or Amerindian children or African children’. All he knew is that it is for Guyanese children and that is the spirit we must take into the 26th of May next year.
We are a Guyanese nation and all of our children must get equal access to the resources of the State; and by so doing we lift the whole country up. All of us will benefit from better roads, better bridges, better houses and greater development. Again, I thank you all, particularly the donors. I thank the community, the Pomeroon community which first gave me this idea – an idea which I will continue to work with and support and implement as long as I’m in office.
I would like to thank particularly Ms. Amna Ally who has been my right hand woman, (not right hand man you know) my right hand woman on this project. She has been pushing this project to ensure that every single river gets boats, gets buses and gets bicycles.
I would also like to thank Minister Annette Ferguson who has been my right hand woman’s right hand woman and she has also been supporting this project, particularly during this season.
To the residents of Charity, I wish you once again a happy Christmas and my heart goes out to you. I’m grateful, grateful, grateful for this act of benevolence, but in a way you are serving yourself because you are serving your children in your own communities.
May God bless you and may you have a happy Christmas.