H. E. Brigadier David Granger: Thank you, please be seated. Did any of you see me when I fell down when I was coming in here? Is now I fall in love; you can now say the President fall in love with Baracara.
And to Amsterdam, thank you for your warm welcome and your prayer. Honourable Minister of Social Cohesion, Amna Ally; Mr. Ricardo Milford of Rubis and other members of his team from Rubis, the donors; Mr. Komal Singh; residents of Baracara- Baracarians. One of these days y’all must give me a visa, a green card, so I can become an honorary Baracarian. Look, ah carrying home some Baracara mud too.
Ladies and gentlemen, I am always happy to be here. I am always welcome here and today, although there is a little bit of rain, as you know this morning I started off with a sunrise service at Fyrish. So this is my second visit to this East Berbice-Corentyne Region, but I’m glad that the team from Rubis would see what a little creek we have here. This is not a river. I think Mr Ricardo Milford comes from a Caribbean country and I think that they would appreciate that this is what we call a creek; but it’s important that he saw for himself and he can speak to his principals that transportation is a big issue in this country and is a big issue for Baracara.
He was coming upriver and you can see the length – the river ain’t done yet and this is only one river; but I would like to start by saying thanks to him and thanks for his response to my 70th birthday; and I would just like to remind you that my 71st birthday is coming up on July the 15th. And I plan to have a birthday every year. [Applause]
But where did this idea come from? It comes from you. When I go around this country I see the conditions under which our people live. I don’t have to dream it up. This is not a gimmick; this is not a side show. This is satisfying the essential needs of our people and, as long as I perceive your needs, the purpose of government is to satisfy those needs.
And the first and greatest need – if you look at your little chickens you see the hen looking after the chicks; if you have a dog, dog looking after the pups. We have to look after the next generation and the most important thing you can give to children, next to feeding them, clothing them and housing them, is to make sure they go to school and learn their lessons. And I believe that education will be the way forward for Baracarians. I believe that if we have every child going to school, if you keep every child in school, if you make every child want to go to school, want to stay in school and get qualified, they’ll be able to turn this community around.
So my commitment and the commitment of Rubis and the other donors who’ve helped in this programme over the last ten months are to ensure that every child stays in school. As you know very well, in this country every year 4,000 children drop out of school- many of them because they don’t have transport, they can’t afford the transport. And we have given a bus already to East Bank Berbice, we’ve given a bus also to Corentyne coast at Rose Hall and this is a commitment that we are fulfilling today; but it is for children and it is to help with their education. I know the difficulty when a child is living in New Amsterdam can’t come home on weekend, mommy worrying, daddy worrying, what’s happening to the child; and I would like the children to be able to come home and spend their weekends at home.
When these villages were built by your ancestors, they were built like a house on four pillars. The first pillar is the home, because children have to live in a home, children have to grow up in a home. The second pillar is the church; that’s why I don’t come here on Saturday anymore. I come on my Sabbath but the church is an important pillar of society.
The third pillar is the school. Children have to learn and it is our responsibility, obligation, duty and commitment to ensure that children go to school; and the fourth pillar, of course, is the farm – work. Because, in every single community that has been established in this country by your foreparents and by other people who came out of indentureship and enslavement, people had to work to eat.
Y’all couldn’t go to any supermarket; you had to produce the food that you needed. This community was built on those four pillars and the school is one of those pillars; and I want you Baracarians to commit yourself to using this boat first and foremost to get your children to and from the school. Do I have your commitment?
The second thing I want to mention is that we want to ensure that every single Guyanese is fully employed – every Guyanese has a job. When I was here last time I spoke about different approaches to employment. We can’t all get jobs in the army or the police force, but I believe in self-employment and I would like to hope that those children would pursue education in scientific, technological or engineering fields so that they learn to make things. You already have the possibility here of having small mills, sewing machines. So I’m surprised you don’t have light here. I would have to speak to somebody… the solar panels aren’t working or what? And why y’all give me blackout if the solar panels working?
Alright; the point I’m making is that we want to see Baracarians fully employed. I know some of you leave the community to go looking for work but employment is available right here for every mango you produce, every breadfruit you produce, every papaya, every simmutu, and every passion fruit. You could make juice, you could make chips and you could export those things; so rather than carrying a boatload of cassava, a boatload of plantain, you can carry a boatload of plantain chips, a boatload of pepper sauce. But we want you to find employment right here.
I want you to be businessmen and women. I want you to be able to enter into the market by producing the commodities that people need but as a private enterprise: if you come together it is up to you. If you want to form a cooperative it is up to you, but I want to see entrepreneurship, I want to see business. So the time will come when there is no David Granger to come and visit you three times in two years. But I want you to become entrepreneurs so people will want to come into Baracara, buy the best guava jam, guava jelly, guava cheese. So you must become a market place. People must want to come into Baracara to get pure honey and to get the finest agricultural produce; and I have some friends in Trinidad who, who when they retire from selling gasoline, will sell Baracarian guava jam and guava cheese.
But I want to see entrepreneurship; do not wait and believe that government or some corporation will come to cut a deal. Every little machine that you get, every boat, every solar panel – you must ask yourself the question “how will you be able to make money out of it?” Clean money, you know.
And finally, I want to feel that the changes which are taking place in this country have not passed Baracara by. That is empowerment, empowerment. The first thing I told you about empowerment is that you have to control this community and we know that you don’t belong to any NDC; you don’t belong to an NDC, you didn’t vote month before the last? Look at that. We have to have you incorporated so that you can have a form of village administration which ensures that the central government and the regional government do not ignore you.
As you know, this year, less than one year since I am in office I have created three new towns. The first time in more than 45 years a new town has been created. The reason is that we feel that these towns will become economic engines to promote the development of these regions. You all are lucky here in East Berbice-Corentyne because you have three towns. Those towns must be strengthened and that is why we have Local Government Elections. The last Local Government Elections were held in 1994 but in less than a year, the people you voted for have been able to bring Local Government Elections. And this is not ornamental, this is not ceremonial; this is because we feel that the ordinary people must be able to select their representatives who will administer their communities.
And that is what I’m talking about when I speak about empowerment and I’m speaking to you about your ability to vote to elect persons; and this happens at three levels. Minister Amna Ally is from the central government; when I find him, I will show you the Regional Chairman. He is from the regional level…. he’s not here? No, not yet; and the third level is the local level-the municipal level. Three levels of government, but the most important level of government is the local government level because that is where you can come into the community centre, come in the school house, come in the community ground and decide how the needs of Baracara will be satisfied.
So we have to strengthen the system of government here, and we will be working towards doing that to make sure that there is some form of village administration which the regional administration will have to deal with. So they’re not dealing with a person- they are dealing with a group within the community to form a system of representation, but more of that later.
But when I speak about empowerment, also, I speak about creating a green economy. What I mean by green economy- I mean an economy that is based on the sustainable use of our resources. It is based on sustainable energy generation like solar panels, so that you can generate electricity- light; use water pumps to ensure that services are provided. My watch here is a solar watch – even though I fall down it didn’t break; all I have to do is wear it in the sunlight and it works year after year.
But you can generate power, you can generate energy in this community – energy from wind chargers, energy from solar panels, energy from bio mass – and you can make the production of material by the use of sustainable energy, renewable energy, cheaper for you. Every house must be illuminated. You could have little factories running small machines. I know Red Cross handed over a factory here a couple years ago. What sort of factory… rice? Rice mill? OK. Still working? Very good, very good. Once people outside see that you are prepared to help yourself they will help you.
Remember the old proverb: God gives nothing to those who keep their hands folded. Open your arms and help will come, but it is through empowerment you will be able to tell other people what you need and satisfy your own needs; and one of those needs is to create a green economy. Make sure that your communities don’t have solid waste piling up; you don’t see floating debris in the river. You ensure that you have lights, not only in the community centres or the school building, but throughout the community. When people come up the river they must say, ‘hey man this side is a town man; what is the name this place name?’ Baracara! They must know this is the village of lights.
So this is my message to you. The boat is very important and that boat will unlock the key to development- first to education, second to employment, third to enterprise and fourth to empowerment. Because you will be part of the local government system, much more a part than you are at present. So fellow Baracarians, I hear you too. I hope you listen good when I talk because I asked you to do some things too. I do some things; you have to do some things too.
When you produce the first bottle of honey I want you to come to my office and say, ‘look President, Baracara honey, Baracara guava jam.’ So those are the four things I want to leave with you. This boat is here; it is not because it is a pleasure boat; it is not for entertainment- it is here to help develop the economy of Baracara by getting children to school, providing them with employment, ensuring that they become businessmen and giving them the power to administer these communities.
Thank you once again for your kind welcome. Next time I come, don’t put so much mud by the step man (Is the rain, is de rain nah), but it is always a pleasure to come here; and remember that today is the day that David Granger fell in love with this community.