President David Granger: Madam Chairperson, Ms. Joseph, thank you for managing the afternoon so well. I think everybody could go on listening to you for the rest of the programme; you’re a one person programme. Minister of Social Cohesion, Ms. Amna Ally; Minister within the Ministry of Communities, Ms. Valerie Patterson; when last you all had a minister from Linden… tell me? When last you all had a real Linden Minister? Praise the lord. [Applause.]
Regional Chairman Mr. Rennis Morian, Members of Parliament, Mr. Jermaine Figueira; Ms. Jennifer Wade, former Regional Chairman Mr. Mortimer Mingo; Chairman of the N.I.C.I.L (wow, you can’t keep a good man down you know) during ‘the troubles’ on the East Coast when you hear a man is a wanted man – is trouble, but this is a wanted man; everybody wants this man. He really comes from Region Five, pretending he comes from Region Four, but he is living in Region Ten. [Laughter.]
Members of the RDC, community leaders, members of the Upper Demerara-Berbice Region, Region 10; students – I see you all had a gender imbalance in the choir, a serious gender imbalance; ten to one is murder boy – alright it is a voice thing. I tried to sing just now, “Let us cooperate” but everybody to my left and right tell me to stick to politics, members of the media, ladies and gentlemen, members of the diaspora:
I am happy to be here this afternoon particularly for the purpose of participating in the launching of these boats. First of all, happy new year, when I came here? Last year? Happy New Year Linden! Well as you can see we have appointed people of experience; you now have an experienced minister within the Ministry of Communities who knows what to do to rectify some of the problems in housing in this region and in this country, and you have an experienced Regional Chairman who knows what to do about improving the economy of this region – you can’t fake experience you know
So I would like to add my personal congratulations once again to Mr. Rennis Morian and my thanks too for his accepting the job of running this region. It is a complex region and he thought a long time and I’m very glad that he did agree and I’m grateful because he didn’t have to do it, but he is driven by something other than greed something other than self-interest. [Applause.] And I’m very grateful Rennis for you taking on this burden at this point in time when the region needs experience, guidance and leadership.
Region 10, how often have I said that this region is blessed, this region is important to the whole country? And when I think about regional development, I think first about Region 10. Why? Because it is the best-connected region to get to Region Seven, to get to Region Eight, to get to Region Nine; you’ve got to the past through Region 10, it has borders with Region Four, Region Five and Region Six. Region 10 is the best-connected region. Hallelujah, a child shall lead them. But I want to see a strong region here, I want to see every region but Region 10 is the model region.
Every region must have its own aerodrome, must have its own banks, its own port of entry, its own courts, its own police station, its own sports stadium, its own houses of worship, its own factories, its own fire service, police service, hospitals, television, transport services, schools, colleges; Region 10 has all of these things and I want to see Region 10 as a strong region, like a state in the USA. [Applause.]
I know you all want to declare independence you know, you all can’t secede. [Laughter.] But I want to see other economic activities; logging, mining (well you’ve got mining already), manufacturing and singing. And singing, I know you all have talent. The last time I was here last December I told a man that I had never heard patriotic songs… with a saxophone like that and he send me a CD, I just won a CD. This lady behind me, I want to learn how to chair meetings like her and got everybody laughing. [Applause.]
But the region’s economy has to be strong and this is the time. Nobody has their foot on Region 10’s throat anymore. It is up to you, but let me tell you another peculiarity about Region 10; no other region in this country has access to the three main rivers of Guyana: the Demerara, Essequibo and Berbice. Some regions have many rivers, but you all have a piece of the Essequibo River down by Rockstone, a piece of the Demerara River within a stone’s throw and a piece of the Berbice River. So whenever you see the National Coat of Arms and you see those three blue lines- it look like Region 10 Coat of Arms you know; all three rivers Demerara, Essequibo and Berbice.
So you are not only well connected but the rivers mean that you have not only potential, but you also have a problem, because people live in those rivers, so we come down to the boats. And it is when I come to regions like this that I have ideas people, I gain ideas. People want to know where I get ideas from; ideas come from you all, from people. I went to Region Five and a little girl going to Berbice High School from Trafalgar first planted that idea in my mind when she told me that her parents had to pay $6,000 per week to get her from West Coast Berbice in Region Five to Berbice High School in Region Six in New Amsterdam. But I was in the Opposition then and I said that can’t be right, but then I went to Region Two in the Pomeroon and I saw the same situation; school children at Friendship had to be paying thousands of dollars to go to school at Charity; that was two wrongs.
Then I go to Malali and I see children paddling to go to school; it looks good on the postcard, but when you get to school you’re tired; you can’t concentrate. Then you have to paddle back in the afternoon, next morning paddle back. So I got the idea from you all, from human beings, from situations. I didn’t lay down in my hammock on a Sunday afternoon and dream it up. I thought about the plight of our children, that they have to get up in the morning, get to school and learn. So I’m not surprised that every single month, every single month children are dropping out of schools all around this country. Four hundred children drop out of school every month in this country, some of them never to go back to school again because they can’t afford to go to school; their parents don’t have the minibus fare or they have to go to work early.
So at age ten or eleven or twelve they already drop out and they can’t complete their education. So part of the problem is the lack of money to provide the transportation for children and part of the solution is the provision of transportation to allow children to get to school and it is my job to solve the problems. I can’t pass on the problems to anybody except the Maker and you know, sometimes the Maker helps you. You know there was this story about three priests, you know they take up the collection and so I said, “What do you do with your collections?” And he said, “You know, I take a tithe, I take ten per cent and the Lord gets ninety per cent.” Another priest said, “I take half and give the Lord half” and then I see this priest from Linden, I say what do you do? I said, “Lord, this is yours; give me back what you don’t want”, he throw it up in the sky and what the Lord don’t want, fall back down to the ground. [Laughter.]
So you know the priesthood is a good guide to how we should develop our country and I want to make sure that every child can get to school and it is a simple mission. And I would like to particularly thank the Minister of Social Cohesion who has put her shoulders behind this particular project; starting with my birthday 15th July when we got the first pledges of boats. [Applause.] Then we started to get bicycles, and then we started to get buses. When you see a picture of the United States you see children going into these yellow buses going to school; I want the same thing for Guyanese children.
The Constitution says, ‘education is an entitlement’ and I want to fulfil that Constitutional requirement. Children must not be kept at home because they can’t afford to go to school. I know it is a problem, I have spoken with teachers; a teacher at Houston is actually putting her hand in her pocket (nowadays teachers are women, teachers are women there are no men) – she puts her hand in her pocket to get a child from Soesdyke to Houston because that child is a promising child and she wants to do everything possible to help that child to go to school. And that is the feeling I got when I came here on the 6th July, 2011 and I went to the Egbert Benjamin Hall and made a presentation to young Tyrone Allen and some others. Tyrone Allen, as you know topped the country; a Linden boy tops the country. [Applause.]
It entered my mind at that time – you see how I get my ideas – it entered my mind at that time to start a scholarship programme. But you know I was in the Opposition then and I had small, small, small pockets. And of course you know they robbed him of his laptop, so he came back to uncle. [Laughter.] But when I met Tyrone Allen for the first time, it gave me an idea that I should launch a programme and when I became the Leader of the PNC, that programme became something called the B.E.S.T – The Burnham Education Scholarship Trust.
Every year now we give out over a million and a half dollars to keep children in school; to help them to buy books, and I use this opportunity, Chairman Morian, to invite the Upper Demerara Region to launch a Demerara Education Scholarship Trust and I will help children in this region to get scholarships, just like I gave Tyrone Allen five years ago. [Applause.]
But I will help; I wouldn’t throw it up in the air and tell you ‘take what you want and leave the rest’. I am going to put real money into a trust managed by the Upper Demerara-Berbice Region RDC to ensure that children in need are kept in secondary school and they don’t have to drop out. [Applause.]
So my purpose in coming here this afternoon… I don’t know what you do on Saturday afternoon in Linden, but the first thing is to ensure that every child remains in school. Education is top priority for every single child. Afterwards, you can choose a profession but if you don’t have the education you cannot embark in that profession. If you don’t have the education nobody wants to employ you, you are unemployable. As I told the children in Region Five last week, sometimes I am astonished to meet young people who can’t read, write, count and spell and I told them the anecdote about my barber, a real barber. He told me that he was so concerned about the unemployment in a certain part of Georgetown that he decided to teach these boys barbering and he wrote out a list of duties: don’t cough, don’t sneeze, cut your fingernails and he gave it to them. Next time he went back he asked them, “You read the paper?” They looked at him and smiled. They said, “Big man, we ain’t deh pon reading you know”. These boys got ear stud and gold teeth but they “ain’t deh pon reading”. So unless you “deh pon reading” you ain’t going nowhere. You got to ‘deh on reading’, or you can’t go on computer. I can’t even give you minibus to drive because you can’t even read S.T.O.P, H.A.L.T… big words.
So education is vital and I want every mother, every father, and every councillor, to make sure that every child in this region goes to school; whether that child is up a highway, up the river, up the creek, that child must find a place in school. Even if that school is a tamarind tree, that child must go to school every day. And that is why we are here today, to make sure that we provide transportation and yes, we’ll add another ‘B’ – we’ll provide books too, and I’ll ask the Chairman of Region 10 to make sure that every child that goes to school gets not only access to transportation, but also access to books and eventually access to yet another ‘B’, breakfast. [Applause.]
Yet another ‘B’! And one of my officers right now is investigating the cost of a standard breakfast. I don’t want see no pickney drinking no Busta, you know. I mean I don’t have anything against people who sell Busta for a living, but I know some of those people work with a dentist and when you see rotten teeth straight to the dentist. It’s sugar water, sugar water. I want to see children drinking some chocolate milk when the morning comes and a little roll with some peanut butter…
So, I want every child to start off the day with some milk, chocolate milk if you wish and a little roll with some local peanut butter. Help Region 10 because Region 10 grows peanuts, also cashew nuts, also cassava bread, but every child – and my staff officer is working on it seriously – to get a box and a little bottle of milk and a roll with some peanut butter. What if a child goes to school hungry, falls down and sleeps; puts his head on the table?
So every child in school, that’s the first thing. The second thing, I believe in an equal society, equality. How do you become equal? You become equal because everybody has the same education. Everybody has equal access to education and when you talk about domestic violence, when you talk about domination, you can’t dominate an educated person… If we want to build an equal society we have to give our children equal access to education and that will put an end to disrespect; that will put an end to discrimination when you have an education nation again, and the education is the basis for equality. So when you come to compete for a job you have your qualifications, people can’t discriminate against you.
The third thing is employment. We don’t have jobs for you in the GDF. We don’t have jobs for you in the police [force], we believe in self-employment that is why when I was here last month I listened to the lady who was soon to be Minister in the Ministry of Communities and I saw the prospect there in LEN for providing micro-finance… but what I see is that there must be more self-employment.
Right now there are problems all over Guyana because there is an El Nino phenomenon but I would like to feel that every person coming out of this region could become self-employed business people; in logging, in vending, in manufacturing, in mining. Linden exports people. If I go to the mines in Suriname I’ll find Lindeners; if I go to the mines in west Essequibo I’ll find Lindeners, North West, Lindeners. Y’all like the Jews of the mining enterprises, the Jews of the mining sector and what I see is that you should use this talent for self-employment.
Don’t look to the central government, look to your own talents, look to your own resources, look to this abundant region to provide employment for you and your children and you can best satisfy your employment needs if you’re educated. If you can understand how to make quality furniture from your timber, if you can understand how to make quality jewellery from the gold that you mine, if you can understand to produce from the very agriculture in this region; the items which your children need for those breakfast meals.
I go to Barbados last year July, one big exhibition in the hotel. You know what the people exhibiting? Bread made from rice flour. I said what? Barbados selling bread made from rice flour and when the prophet came and said, “Make bread from rice flour” they stone the prophet. FAO – Food and Agriculture Organisation – put on one big display, rice flour, cassava flour because some people don’t have a tolerance for wheat flour and when Forbes Burnham tell the people that 40 years ago, they laughed at it and now throughout the Caribbean people are using cassava flour [and]rice flour to make bread.
But all of these commodities, if you are serious, Lindeners, about production, about manufacturing, could be used to support our school feeding programme right here, every day there are nearly quarter of a million students going to school in Guyana, nearly 250,000 and as I look around I see some of you all have plans for another 250,000. But if you apply your talent and your time to produce the commodities that school children need you can, not only make a good living for yourselves, but you can help to keep children in school and the Chairman [will] pay for it. [Applause.]
So that employment now has carried you further forward into the field of private enterprise. Do not feel that you have to get ‘lil wuk’ with the Government or with the region. You can employ yourself by building that private enterprise and what does the ‘E’ mean in LEN? What a coincidence – LEN, nut you have to be an entrepreneur, you have to take that step, you have to be enterprising and that is why LEN is there. And I go to other reasons and I say learn from LEN, learn from Linden, set up these financial institutions so that you can help young people particularly coming out of school to get some assistance in the field of enterprise.
So my brothers and sisters from Region 10 this is a very serious ceremony for me. It is symbolic, yes… that we have one boat but as people remind me of the ancient saying, “The journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step”. And getting every child in school starts with a single boat but it is a system, we are building a system which other people will compliment and copy; “How is it you get 100% attendance?” I gave them boats, or we gave them a bike, or we gave them a bus; even give them breakfast. You could see their jaws drop because we are building a new civilisation in Region 10; one that is not based on anger, one that is based on solving problems, one that is based on coming together; one that is based on a systematic approach to the economic problems facing us.
So I’ve given you a mouthful this afternoon my brothers and sisters. The future of this region is a strong economy, the economy is based on full employment, and full employment is based on education. Education is based on getting children in school and keeping them in school. This is my simple message to you, to the MPs, to the Regional Chairman and to every mother here, promise yourself to do everything that is possible to keep your child in school. And if you can’t afford [it] let us see what we can do in terms of providing a bicycle. If you live in a riverine area – provide a boat; if you live on a part of the highway which is a distance from your school- provide a bus; if you don’t have food, provide breakfast, if you don’t have money we provide a bursary, but let us do everything possible to look after the next generation so that they can enjoy the good life.
I thank you very much for your attendance.

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