President David Granger: Thank you, Chairperson. Thank you, [Regional Councillor] Mr. Perry Birbal, for your introduction.
Honourable Minister Amna Ally, Minister of Social Protection; Deputy REO [Regional Executive Officer] Miss Jennifer Ferreira Dougal; teachers and pupils of Arthurville; residents of Wakenaam; officials; ladies and gentlemen.
I’m always happy to come to this beautiful island. You know, Guyana is so lucky; these three islands in the mouth of the Essequibo River: Leguan, Wakenaam and Hogg Island are bigger than the British Virgin Islands. Wakenaam stands in the mouth of the river that is 1,000 kilometres long, the longest river in Guyana. This is really a blessed island and we are living in a blessed country and I’m very happy to be here.
Now Wakenaam boys and girls, I have come here for several reasons; one of them, of course, is to distribute kites because, as you know, today is Palm Sunday and one week from now the Christians will be celebrating Easter and on Easter Monday all of us will be going out to fly our kites.
This is a long Guyanese tradition. Sometimes we go to Antigua or Barbados or Belize and people don’t know about flying kites; but we know about flying kites and I have come here to Wakenaam to share kites to all of you boys and girls. Now even if you are not a Christian, all the Muslims, all the Hindus are happy to participate in this fun. It’s not about Christianity alone, it is about fun. Now the reason why you are all in school today, the reason why we have so many schools over the length and breadth of Guyana, the reason why there are nearly a quarter of a million children in our country going to school is because of the emphasis we put on education.
Our motto in the government is that every child must go to school; every child in school and over and over again the Minister of Social Protection, the Minister of Education and other Ministers go from village to village, community to community, making sure that children could get to school. So being here today is just for us to confirm our faith in education; without education, you will not be able to enjoy a good life.
Education, first of all, is the gateway to equality. So whether you come from Anna Regina, whether you come from Corriverton, whether you come from Lethem or Bartica, the state provides schools so you could be educated and one thing I would like to ask you here in Arthurville, here in Wakenaam, is to make sure that you stay in school. Now every one of you is getting an exercise book and a pen- if you have an exercise book wave it let me see. There you go! Thank you. These exercise books are free … When you look on the cover of that exercise book what do you see? You see, 20 Guyanese animals. All of those animals are ‘giants’ and they all come from Guyana. Why we are giving you these books is because we are asking you to preserve and protect the environment.
You know the Amerindian people have a saying; they say, ‘Trees hold up the sky and if you cut down the trees the sky will fall’. Well, the trees do more than hold up the sky; the trees provide the habitat for animals to live. So when you look at that exercise book it will remind you that Guyana, not America, Guyana has the largest eagle in the world, the Harpy Eagle. We have the largest freshwater fish in the world, the Arapaima; the largest spider in the world, the largest bat in the world, the largest rodent in the world, the largest tapir, the largest manatee.
All of these animals come from Guyana and we are giving you these exercise books today so that you’ll be proud of your country; proud of the environment and you would help to protect the environment. So we want you to learn about Guyana and to learn about the environment and help to protect and preserve the environment.
Now, another reason for coming today is because I know there are many young people who go to school in Region Two on the Essequibo Coast; in Region Three in the Essequibo Islands-West Demerara Region; but after they leave school, they cannot get work; they cannot find work and many of them are unemployed. Well, boys and girls, I don’t believe that a single Guyanese should be unemployed. When you leave school, I don’t want you to be unemployed; I want you to be able to work so that you could become rich and comfortable and this place Wakenaam is the best place to get rich and comfortable. Why?
Because you all are an agricultural island; because you can produce enough food to feed other parts of the country- without your rice, without your fruits, Guyanese will not be able to survive. So you are doing the right thing, but let me tell you this. Everything that you grow, every grain of rice, every fish that you catch, every fruit that you produce could be preserved. We can produce so much fruit juice that it could be sold in the Caribbean. We could produce so many guavas that we can produce guava jam and guava jelly and guava cheese.
Yesterday I was in the Pomeroon, and the Pomeroon is producing the best coconut water in the world. If you drink that coconut water you will never drink water from Brazil, you will never drink water from Thailand, you will never drink water from Puerto Rico. It is the best in the world. So what I am asking you to do boys and girls is to stay in school, but look to your own island Wakenaam; look to these three islands, Wakenaam, Hogg Island and Leguan, to produce the food that we need in Guyana and all of the food that you produce could be processed.
You don’t have to eat raw cassava, raw sweet potato, raw breadfruit: all of these things could be made into chips- cassava chips, breadfruit chips, plantain chips, but you need energy to do that. Energy is outside there – the sun is shining, producing energy; the wind is blowing, producing energy. So what I want is that in buildings like this Arthurville School, I would be able to come here next year or in the years to come and see lights that are [being] generated with sustainable energy.
That is, every school, every medical centre, every police station, every home on this island should be able to have lights from solar power and the same solar power could be used for you to generate electricity for agro-processing. So when you grow your mangoes, when you grow your simmutu, when you grow your guavas, you can use electricity generated from the sun power to drive your machines. So you need to make use of what I call sustainable energy right here in Wakenaam.
You know, since the government [came into power] just under 19 months ago, we have done a lot; we have helped to secure the sea defences on this island; we have helped to improve the road network and we have helped to improve the schools, particularly the nursery schools. So we are going to continue working with the people of Wakenaam, with the people of these three islands in the Essequibo Islands-West Demerara Region because we believe that all Guyanese should have equal access to the public services.
We don’t discriminate between what we give to Region Six from what we give to Region Two; what we give to Region One and what we give to Region Nine. We want Guyanese in all of the regions, particularly here in Wakenaam, which is part of Region Three, Essequibo Islands-West Demerara Region, to get the same benefits that we give to people in other parts of the country. So this is my message to you boys and girls here at Arthurville: we are going to help you to celebrate Easter whether you are Hindu, Muslim or Christian.
We would like you to go out Easter Monday and have fun flying kites and the kites are here and in a few minutes you are all going to get kites. We are here to make sure that we do everything possible to keep you in school because we believe education is the gateway to a good life. We want you to protect the environment; we want you to be proud of the environment because the environment is going to help to give you that good life as well.
We want you to be able to generate cheap energy so that you don’t have to depend on GPL; you don’t have to depend on gasoline and dieseline to give you energy. So these are the ways that you could enjoy a very good life. So, boys and girls of Wakenaam, once again, thank you very much for coming out today. We wish you a very happy Easter; we have brought some kites, but promise yourselves to stay in school, promise yourself to excel in school so that you can have that very good life.
Thank you very much and may God bless you all.