President David Granger: It is always good to be in Leguan and particularly back in this school hall as Mr. Amjad Shaw reminded you. I was here a couple of years ago; it is good to be back. So thank you very much for your warm welcome from the stelling and all of the students who welcomed us here this morning.
Mistress of Ceremonies, Mrs. Shaw; the Ministers of Religion for Christians, Islamic and Hindu faiths; Minister Amna Ally; Ms. Jennifer Ferreira-Dougal, who is the [Deputy Regional Executive Officer] DREO for the Essequibo Islands-West Demerara Region; other officials; ladies and gentlemen.
As you heard a minute ago, we are here for several reasons. As [Regional Councillor Ms. Kathleen] Armstrong said, today, for the Christians, is called Palm Sunday in fact, it is just exactly a week away from Easter Sunday. So I must admit that one of the main reasons for coming is to help you to celebrate that festival.
In Guyana, Easter is no longer regarded as purely a Christian festival. If you go in Antigua now, if you go in Barbados, if you go anywhere where there are Guyanese, they are all preparing their kites to fly on Easter Monday. I don’t think that there is any other part of the Caribbean where people have this ritual of flying kites every Easter Monday and it used to create quite a stir in the Caribbean because Guyanese would always come home to fly kites and the Bajans and the Antiguans and the Jamaicans always wondered what is so fancy about flying kite; but it is our ritual and I have come here today to Leguan Island to distribute kites so that the young people particularly, will be able to fly kites on Easter Monday so that is my main reason for coming. It is not a purely Christian festival as I said; all Guyanese should come out and celebrate the flying of kites at this time of the year.
Now there are other reasons for coming and the other reason that I would like to tell you about today is because we believe that wherever you live in Guyana, you must see yourself and the rest of Guyana must see you as being equal. I don’t believe in any discrimination. I don’t believe that because people are living in rural areas or in the islands or in the hinterland they should be treated differently. We believe in equality and if people are to be equal, the gateway to equality is exactly what you are do in this building – education.
So coming here today is a reminder that we are committed to equality, but we are also committed to ensuring that every single child has access to education. By this time each one of you should have an exercise book. You have an exercise book? Wave it let me see. Very good! Only the children, not the big people, than you and you should have a ball point pen. Now on that exercise book, you will see 20 animals. These animals belong to Guyana. These are not animals from Europe or Asia, these are Guyanese animals- all 20 of them; but each animal, each one of those 20 is unique because it is the largest animal in its class- that’s why we call them ‘the Giants of Guyana’. So when you see the Arapaima, it’s the largest freshwater fish in the world; when you see the spider, it is the largest spider in the world; when you see the Capybara or the watrush it is because it is the largest rodent in the world; when you see the Harpy Eagle, it’s the largest eagle in the world – bigger than the American Bald Eagle. So we have brought those exercise books to you so that you can understand that what you see there belongs to you; belongs to the children of Guyana and we want you to inherit our rich flora and fauna.
No Caribbean island- no Barbados, no Trinidad, no Jamaica, no Antigua possesses flora and fauna like we do in Guyana and that is why I am so proud, that is why I’m so pleased, that’s why I’m so happy to be here to share this message with you because it is by gaining education that you get access to what we call equality and by gaining equality, we can ensure that people in every part of the country: to the east of the Essequibo, to the west of the Essequibo or right here in the mouth of the Essequibo, that we all have equal access to education and we all have equal access to the environment and these animals represent the habitat- the place where our animals live.
So the environment is important and if we destroy the environment we will destroy the habitat or the homes of these animals. So that is another message that I bring you today: the protection and the preservation of our environment because without the environment all those animals will disappear and you will not be able to see them and your children, in years to come, would not be able to see them.
You know, a few weeks ago I was in The Bahamas and the Governor General of The Bahamas is a woman called Dame Marguerite Pindling. When I started to tell her that Guyana has the biggest spider in the world; the biggest rodent she said, “Stop, stop, stop”. I said, ‘I ain’t finish yet … The biggest snake in the world”, so she was very, very interested to hear what we had, although I don’t think she likes spiders and snakes but that is part of our message.
Now in the Essequibo-Islands that is Leguan, Wakenaam and Hogg Island and several other islands – as you know, the Essequibo River is the longest river in Guyana; it is a thousand kilometres long – but these three islands alone are bigger than the British Virgin Islands. So here in the mouth of the Essequibo you have three islands, which are bigger than the British Virgin Islands in the West Indies but despite the size of these islands and despite the size of the country there is a lot of poverty and a lot of unemployment.
Now we feel – and two nights ago I was at Anna Regina at the Essequibo Agro and Trade Fair – we can feed this nation better. We can feed the Caribbean better and what I want to encourage you here on Leguan to do is not to try to migrate. My good friend the pandit migrated and he has returned – thank God – but other people have migrated, but they will tell you this that Guyana is an earthly paradise; that although they may go away and they may work hard, when winter comes they want to come back to Leguan and Wakenaam. Winter in Canada is not easy; Canada has two seasons: cold and very cold, but living in Guyana you can feed yourself with fresh food, fresh fruit every day. You can be prosperous if we make use of what we have and that is what I want to encourage you children here – to make use of the goods; make use of the farm products; make use of the commodities that we produce here.
Everything you produce, every plantain could be made into plantain chips; every cassava could be made into cassava chips; every mango, every simmutu, every guava could be made into some form of drink, guava jam, guava jelly, guava cheese. So it is by agro-processing that you can stay right here in Leguan, right here in the Essequibo Islands, but if you embrace a form of employment you can employ yourself by making these goods and selling them to the Caribbean and selling them to other parts of the country.
Yesterday, I was at Charity, and they gave me a bottle of coconut water to drink. It is the best coconut water in the world and I drink Brazilian coconut water; I drink a lot of coconut water from Thailand and Guyanese coconut water from the Pomeroon is the best coconut water in the world, you tell any Brazilian I say so. So what I’m saying is right here in Leguan, right here in Essequibo-Islands, right here in Region Three, you can produce enough to make a good living to be rich and to provide for your children and grandchildren. So, I’m not saying there is no unemployment, but what I am saying is that it is possible to ensure that you get good employment if you grasp education and if you grasp the means of employing yourself.
So just let me make two more comments. Number one is energy. Everything you need to work with is powered by energy. This microphone is powered by energy; this watch is powered by energy, but this watch is powered by solar energy. All I have to do is wear this watch in the sunlight and it has been working for three years already. I don’t have to wind it up; I don’t have to change any battery. Right here in Leguan you too could make use of solar energy. So all of your lights, all of your little machines, your radio, your PA system could be powered by solar power.
You don’t need GPL and I hope one of these days GPL will take a walk and you all will be using renewable energy. Here also at the mouth of the Essequibo River you can produce energy from the wind. I grew up on the Corentyne at a village called Whim and there were rice millers in that area of central Corentyne and many of the rice millers had wind chargers generating electricity. Those days you didn’t have any GPL. People used to Tilley lamps, Hurricane lamps and Coleman lamps, but the richer people had wind chargers. The wind is free day and night; the wind chargers were turning, generating electricity you don’t even have to turn the light off. All I’m trying to tell you Leguan is that you can have cheaper energy if you use wind power; if you use solar power and that wind and solar power will generate electricity to help you to do agro-processing; to produce your jams and jellies; to produce your rice cereals and to produce other things which you need not only to live with, but to sell.
So these are the messages that I want to bring to you today. It is not just about Easter or the distribution of kites, it is about having a good life on this island of Leguan. As Comrade Shaw told you already; this government is committed to giving you, the people of Leguan, a good life. We do not believe that your roads should be inferior. We do not believe your transportation should be inferior, that your schools should be inferior that is why we are spending millions of dollars on sea defence and improving transportation on this island so you must be able to move about quickly, freely. You must be able to get your rice, your paddy from your farms. You must be able to sell your produce in other parts of the island and other parts of the region, this great Region Three, and in other parts of the country and we will continue working for you because every Guyanese is entitled to equal access- that’s the first thing I mentioned: equality, equal access to education, equal access to employment, equal access to good infrastructure, equal access to the environment, which we all want to produce.
So brothers and sisters, once again, thank you very much for welcoming me to this island. Thank you very much for coming out in your numbers. A week from now the Christians will be celebrating Easter, but I hope that on Easter Monday all of you will be able to fly a kite and I have brought some large boxes of kites here and I would like to ask you to take the kites and to help to celebrate Easter; to help to celebrate the freedom which you have on this island of Leguan.
Thank you very much and may God bless you all.