President David Granger: Boys and girls, ladies and gentlemen, I am happy to be here this morning because I have come with a mission, a special mission. First of all, let me tell you I have come because it’s Easter time; we’re still in Lent but soon we will be celebrating Easter; it is the most sacred festival for Christians. It is the festival which celebrates the resurrection of Christ; you know on Good Friday we commemorate the death of Jesus Christ but three days later he rose and this is one of the few countries in the Caribbean where we fly kites at Easter time.
Sometimes Guyanese go to Antigua and go to Barbados and the Bajans want to know what going on- every Easter Monday Guyanese have to go and fly their kites; it’s a ritual. So today, we have brought some kites for the children and after my remarks here we will be having a little vote of thanks; then we will have the distribution of kites.
So my first purpose for coming here is to give kites to children so that we can all celebrate Easter where ever we are in Guyana by the flying of kites. Now I see the church there and I’m very grateful for the landing; when I first use to come to this village it was like walking on a tightrope to try to come here without falling in the water; but now this thing like New York boy. But congratulations to the church, the people who constructed this; it’s very clean, it is very safe and I’m very proud of the work that you put in there. Now the other reason for coming back here is because Pomeroon is fixed in my mind; in my memory it is because of coming to Pomeroon that I was able to find out how people are living; to find out what people’s needs are and a lot of my thinking as President, a lot of what directs my behaviour, my thoughts, my actions, my plans, has been determined by my experiences here.
And let me say one thing; it is and I always tell him when he is here; Mr. Garraway, it is because of the pleas that he made to me; it is because of situations that I found that I started one of the programmes here- that is, to bring a boat into the Pomeroon-River for children to get to school and since that time we have how many? Thirteen boats? About nine boats, thirteen buses and from the boats we went to buses and from the buses we went to bicycles and from the bicycles, we went to books. All the children have a green exercise book? Let me see you wave the green exercise book. Yes, okay, so we keep on adding the ‘B’s from boats, to buses, to bicycles, to books and we will keep on going; we will provide breakfast and we will provide other things- boots later on; but let’s take one ‘B’ at a time.
But let me tell you this, Friendship: it is because of lessons I learnt here that I decided to put emphasis on getting school boats and now every river, every major river in Guyana, has a school boat and other people are asking for two boats; there are two boats already in the Pomeroon. I just came from another village Makaseema-Kabakaburi; they’d like to get another boat. Now I don’t have more boats but what I have is a desire to make sure that every child goes to school so we will keep on working to satisfy your needs.
So it’s not just a boat doing something ceremonial; have a nice ceremony. It is important for every child to go to school and that is why I am here again – to thank you for the idea and to let you know that idea has gone into the Berbice River, Demerara River, Essequibo River and, of course, right here in the Pomeroon River. Why do we do that? Because education is important. Why is education important? It’s important because it’s the first step towards equality; that is if a child like that bright child that we had just now comes out of the Pomeroon he or she must be given the opportunity to get the best secondary education to go to the University of Guyana. This means that being in Pomeroon is not backward; being in Pomeroon is not ignorant; you must get the same opportunity and education will open that door. And it is our duty to make sure that children in every part of the country get equal opportunity equal access to education. So that is part of my mission to make sure that you all go to school and stay in school and we will keep on; we will keep on. We started here presenting a boat at Charity and we are going to present more boats to Upper Pomeroon and to Lower Pomeroon.
The second complaint people have is about jobs; all the young people drop out of school and they can’t find jobs. Well let me tell you right up front- the government doesn’t have jobs to give people. I can’t just put a lot of people in the army or the police or the civil service; I will help you to get jobs. I will do everything possible for you to get jobs but I would like you to help yourself too.
I would like to provide employment in the form of self-employment. Now last night I spoke at Anna Regina, you had the Essequibo Agro and Trade Fair- E.A.T. I thought they were inviting me to meals. E.A.T – Essequibo Agro and Trade; but I understand that they invited me to talk. Anyhow, I went to this trade fair and what I told them last night I tell you today. The Pomeroon-Supenaam is one of the most productive agricultural zones in the entire country and I believe in the entire eastern Caribbean. The Pomeroon-Supenaam is bigger than Trinidad and Tobago; you are living in a big region. If this region was a country you would have been bigger than several West Indian islands, but just as you have in Friendship, in the Pomeroon-River, in Friendship the ability to produce some of the best or some of the finest coconut water in the world and, look, I drink Brazilian coconut water; I drink coconut water from Thailand and I tell you Pomeroon coconut water is the best coconut water. [Applause.]
When you drink Pomeroon coconut water you must stop and say, “Eh eh where this come from?” So I’m telling you that you all produce in the Essequibo, in the Pomeroon-Supenaam Region, 44 million coconuts every year; you produce nearly half of the rice that Guyana produces, you produce about a quarter of the fish that Guyana produces. So there is no reason for anybody in the Pomeroon-Supenaam Region to go hungry or to go without a job. What we have to do is convert your agricultural wealth into money you can put in your pocket. What we have to do is convert your agricultural wealth into jobs. All of you must grow up to have prosperous farms, happy households with lots of children. I like to see children, one set of pickney. That’s why I keep coming back here. Every time I come I see more pickney.
So I want you to be happy. I want you to have jobs but I want you to look to Pomeroon- Supenaam, I want you to look to this region so that we can get more employment here. And let me say this, our government, your government, the people you voted for created something called S.L.E.D -Sustained Livelihood and Entrepreneurial Development Programme and we are going to extend S.L.E.D. So young men and women who want to start a project will be able to get themselves organised, get themselves in order and apply.
On the first of January next year I am going to launch something called the Guyana Youth Corps and, again, I’m asking you, people, officials, civil society, teachers in this region, if you have young people who have dropped out of school and now are looking for ways and means to get back into the world of work let’s make a note of their names, let’s get them applications so that at the beginning of next year we can try as far as possible to get jobs for them. So the Guyana Youth Corps is coming and the S.L.E.D is coming.
We are concerned about youth employment and we’ll do everything possible to make sure that young people get the opportunity to go back into land and produce because, even though Pomeroon-Supenaam is producing so much coconut, producing so much fish, producing so much rice, a lot of it is raw. We need to process these commodities. We need to process our guava into guava jam and guava jelly and guava cheese. We need to process our cassava into cassareep. We need to make things so that we can sell pepper sauce, we can sell chutney, we can sell other condiments into the markets of the Caribbean but to do that first of all you must produce the goods and we’ve heard your pleas about drainage and we’re going to work on that.
You see the Regional Executive Officer? I told him whenever he comes with me to get a big notebook because that notebook is my memory and he has to write down everything you ask for. I’m not saying we will deliver everything but we will go back and see whether we can find money to provide for those requirements. Our budget comes out from January to December and we have started a practice of introducing the budget in November so we debate the budget and by January the budget is up and running; so right now money has already been allocated for 2017.
So we’re trying to get money for 2018 to provide for these things that we are talking about; but coming back to your employment, coming back to the economy of Pomeroon-Supenaam Region, I’ve told you before in my previous visits that you have to get cheap energy. You hear that generator running there? That generator is drunk on oil, it is addicted to oil and if you follow that generator we will always be in debt.
I’ve told you before and I will repeat it, we have to make use of sustainable sources of energy. I would like the Padre, the Pastor, the Bishop, the Apostle who is running this church to put some solar panels on the roof of that beautiful extension so that we get solar lights. We stop running generators. Somebody give me an amen? Amen? Amen. I’m asking this region, I’m asking this community, I’m asking the people in this river to adopt solar energy; it is silent and it is free.
Once you get the equipment you get light day and night. My watch, I told you this when I first came here; this watch works on solar power. All I got to do is wear it. It doesn’t have to be wound up, it doesn’t require battery, it works on sunlight and throughout this river you can use the sun to generate electricity so that children have light at night to do their homework.
So, Pastor, please lead the way- do not hide thine light under a bushel. Thank you. So once you get this energy you don’t have to get one panel for every house; you can have a whole field of panels so that people can produce enough energy to make cassareep, to make plantain chips, to make guava jam and guava jelly and to study at night. So energy generation is very important if we are going to transform Friendship into a progressive community.
So, my brothers and sisters, thank you for your comments and your recommendations. I appreciate it; we will do everything possible to look after the drainage. The young man mentioned the sporting facilities; again I believe this field is part of the work of the church. I think they maintain the field? I thank God for the Pastor so that we can have sporting facilities and we will try to provide some sporting equipment for the young people in the community as well. So by the first of July Colonel Abraham is going to get some sporting gear here for the young people to play at least football and then we’ll get some other gear later.
So I’m very happy to be here, I’m very happy for the comments which you’ve made. I’d like to congratulate the dancers, I’d like to congratulate all of you who came out; so let us now take the opportunity to say thanks and to distribute these kites and when you fly these kites you will remember not only the resurrection of Christ but you will remember that Friendship is on the move and we have not forgotten Friendship and will keep on coming back to this beautiful community.
Thank you for coming out and may God bless you all.