President David Granger: This is a long postponed visit. As the headmasters like to say, “Better late than never” and some say, “Better never late”, but I am here and I am happy to be here among you. First of all, let me thank the Toshao, Mr. Cleveland Simon, for allowing me into the village. If you don’t thank the Toshao he won’t let you come back you know. So thank you very much, Mr. Cleveland Simon, for having us here.
Minister Amna Ally; Regional Executive Officer Mr. Hopkinson; our colleague, Mr. Neville Callistro and of course his son, Mr. Adam Callistro, and all the residents of Kabakuburi and Makaseema as well as those of you who might have come from St. Monica, it’s good to be here, bright sunshine, cool breeze and lovely company but we’ve come here with a mission and allow me to say why we’ve come.
First of all, and let me say this frankly, I’ve come because it’s Easter and most of us here are Christians and Easter is the most important Christian festival; not Christmas, but Easter, not new year’s but Easter. Easter is the reason for Christianity because it signifies the resurrection of Christ.
It signifies the fact that Christ came into this world; he was crucified, he died for our sins and the resurrection tells all of us Christians that forgiveness is possible and even though we have sinned we could be forgiven of our sins. So, without Easter, without that proof of the resurrection of Christ there would be no religion like Christianity. So, this is an Easter visit and we’ve brought with us some kites.
Now, a lot of people associate kites with Easter, but Easter is a very confusing festival because some people associate Easter eggs with Easter, but everybody know Christ didn’t have eggs. People associate rabbits with Easter. Easter Rabbit, but everybody know there were no rabbits in Bethlehem, but when we come to kites, kites came into this country with the Chinese immigrants and when the British plantation owners saw them flying kites they tried to stop them; so the Chinese told them “Oh, we only fly these kites to celebrate the resurrection of Christ”; but kite flying was popular in China for hundreds and hundreds of years and that is why up to now Guyanese fly kites at Easter time, and we don’t fly kites in September, October, November.
We fly kites at Easter time. So we see sometimes Guyanese go to Antigua, Guyanese go to Barbados; so the Bajans looking to see only Guyanese flying kites during Easter time. So that has become a cultural tradition. So first of all I’ve come to Kabakuburi to continue that cultural tradition of flying kites at Easter. Other people fly kites but only Guyanese seem to fly kites at Easter time.
So it’s a holy festival, it’s a sacred festival and we’ve come to bring a few boxes of kites. It is not good for only people in Georgetown or people on the coastland to have kites. We feel that as many children as possible throughout the country should have kites. So that is the first reason for my visit.
The second reason for my visit is that Pomeroon is very important to me, very important to my government and very important to the policies of my government. Let me tell you this: I have a minister responsible for boats; she’s sitting behind me in a green shirt. She’s the minister of boats; now what I mean is that when I was here campaigning, ask Ms. Doreen Duncan, ask Mr. Anthony Naipaul, ask Mr. Callistro himself; when I was campaigning, people in Upper Pomeroon, people in Lower Pomeroon, told me it was expensive for their children to get to school at Charity.
In fact, some children were not going to school because they did not have transport, they could not afford the transport, and even before I became President I decided that when I became President, I knew I was going to become President because you all support me so I knew I was going to become President. I decided when I became President I would start a programme of providing boats in the riverine areas.
Right now most of the rivers have at least one boat but Pomeroon special, Pomeroon got two. Essequibo River has boats, Demerara River has boats, Berbice River has boats in order for children to go to school. These are not boats for cassava and sweet potato. These are boats for children to go to school first and foremost and we will continue to work; we don’t have enough- I think Karawab ask for boats; other places ask for boats. Akawini wants boats but we will continue to try to provide boats as far as possible so that children can go to school.
Education is important to me, it’s important to Minister Ally, it’s important to our government. Every one of you now should have a green exercise book. If you have a green exercise book in your hand just wave it for me; let me see you wave. You got a green pen? Let me see the pen. Thank you. Well Mr Andrew Pinder just captured that so it will be straight on Facebook- waving the green exercise books.
Now, these exercise books are important, they’re important for education- they’re free, the pens are free but they’re also important because they tell a story of this blessed country which God has given us, the country of Guyana and on that cover you will see twenty animals. All those animals come from Guyana; none of them from Alaska, none of them from Russia. All of them come from Guyana. It tells you the story that Guyana is rich in its wildlife and I want all of you to understand that I cannot carry those animals where I’m going.
My dear sister who is 92, same age like me except for 20 years here and there, Mr. Neville Callistro, all of us, have to leave this country to you, the children. You have to inherit and we don’t want to eat out those animals, we don’t want to kill out those animals. We want to preserve and protect those animals so that you could benefit from having to live in one of the most beautiful countries in the whole world.
So those books are there for use and in months to come I hope we can get more of them to you but I just want you to know that that is a symbol of this beautiful country, Guyana, that God has given us.
Now, education is important. Not only is that the reason why I have given you a boat in Upper Pomeroon. I wish I could have given you more but it’s important for you to go to school and qualify because I want to see something called equality. I want children in Kabakuburi to have the same opportunity as children in Corriverton, as children in Kwakwani, as children in Mabaruma but you can only get access to that equality if you have equal access to education. So education is the gateway to equality, and we want to ensure that you get quality education.
Right now it’s difficult because sometimes you don’t have enough teachers; sometimes you don’t have enough books, enough chalk. Sometimes you don’t get proper preparation for the National Grade Six Assessment which I think is next week? Good luck, good luck with your National Grade Six Assessment. When you pass remember I tell you good luck, right? But I hope you all pass because National Grade Six is important for you to go on to your secondary education; but if you want to enjoy equality in this country you have to have a good education.
So I’m asking you teachers, I’m asking you parents, do everything possible to keep your children in school and we will try to help you and I’d like to publicly thank Minister Ally because from the 15th of July, 2015 she has embraced the programme of providing boats, of providing buses, of providing bicycles and now, of course, we have books and I wish we could have other ‘B’s but I am allowing her to take one ‘B’ every year and right now, we have four ‘B’s in two years; so she is doing quite well but promise me one thing – that every single child from these communities, from Kabakuburi, from Makaseema, from St. Monica, from all of the communities in Upper Pomeroon will get an opportunity to go to school.
I promise you, I remind you, this is where it started, in the Pomeroon River. I decided that children should not be kept away from school because of transport problems and I will continue to do everything possible to get children to school. Doreen took me to Liberty School; every spring tide the school flood. Children can’t learn when you have to send them home for three weeks because the school flooded, the school yard flooded, the schoolhouse flooded. That is no way to live. So education is vital, and I’m here at Easter time to emphasise the importance of education. I am here National Grade Six time to emphasise the importance of education.
Another thing I’d like to mention is employment. Many young people after they leave school don’t have jobs. That’s a problem at Kabakuburi, that’s a problem at Charity; that’s a problem at Georgetown, it’s a problem at Corriverton, it’s a problem in Lethem but Region Two has a special advantage. Region Two could feed the whole of Guyana. Region Two produces almost half the coconuts than the rest of Guyana. The whole of Guyana coconut production is increasing but Region Two alone produces about 44 million coconuts. Region Two produces a great portion of the rice; Region Two produces a great portion of the fish.
What this tells us is that here at Kabakuburi you could use your agricultural knowledge, your experience, your expertise to continue to produce agricultural goods. Those goods could be packaged, they could be processed. If you’re producing passion fruit, if you’re producing cherries, if you’re producing mango, if you’re producing guava, whatever you’re producing, we could process those goods right here in Kabakuburi so you don’t have to send a boatload of fruits to Charity; you don’t have to carry a boatload of cassava to Charity; you can process those goods so that you can sell the dried product or the finished product in Charity.
People from the Pomeroon are already selling coconut oil in Trinidad and Tobago, Alfonso’s selling coconut oil, people selling coconut water. Goat ain’t bite Kabakuburi- you can do it here. So don’t depend on somebody doing it for you. You can help to do that yourself, you can try to do that yourself, you can help yourself by doing that. So it will give your young people jobs and it will also boost the economy of Upper Pomeroon.
Now one more thing, I know the sun hot and you don’t like stand up in hot sun listening to politicians but one more thing I want to mention. You hear that generator going? Believe me, there don’t always need generator. Nowadays people are using what I call sustainable energy. You see the sun? The sun is energy. You see this watch? This watch running on sunlight; I had this watch three years and all I do is wipe the front every time it gets dust. I don’t have to do anything because the sunlight charges my watch.
It’s a solar watch and nowadays every country in the world is using solar energy to drive machines and here in Kabakuburi don’t believe that you are addicted to gasoline and if you don’t get gasoline the end of the world will come. I’m asking Colonel Abraham. Where is Colonel Abraham? He gone or he’s coming? Alright, you see this man? He is going to send you a solar panel before the first of July. Isn’t that so? Isn’t that what we agreed? We just agreed.
So at least this pavilion, if not a community centre, if not the landing, we will have a solar panel giving you light so that, if you coming up the river at night, you put the solar panel at the landing, you have light. So you know when you coming to Kabakuburi because Kabakuburi got light but seriously, let us look at other areas of energy generation so that not only the landing, not only the community centre but the major buildings of the community can have light by day or by night so that children can study, so that people can walk form the landing to their community centre or whatever it is. We wouldn’t be able to electrify the whole village but he is going to start with one panel.
So that is a promise to you but what I’m saying is that panel is just an example, it’s just a specimen of what you can do for the whole village and when I speak about the economy, it means that you will have more panels. You don’t have to have a little panel like if it’s a trinket, like if it’s a toy. You can have a whole field of panels; I’m not promising you that now but you can have a whole field of panels which generate enough electricity for you to be able to cook, for you to be able to package these products I’m telling you about- guava jam and guava jelly and guava cheese.
So the energy will help you to build a strong economy. A strong economy will help you to get employment, employment will help you to live a long life till you’re 92 and beyond and enjoy the good things of this village. So everything is linked. Education is linked to employment; employment is linked to the economy; the economy is linked to cheap energy. So this is my message to you, Mr. Adam Callistro; there is a saying you know that “God doesn’t help people who keep their hands folded”; so if you open your hand I gone open my pocket and together we are going to develop Upper Pomeroon; together we will ensure that your people have better employment and you have the facilities in this village.
Now there are over 200 indigenous villages in Guyana and there’s only one President but you have 200 villages and we would like to help all of the villages to become self-reliant. I’ve been to Akawini; when I leave here I am going to another village. Tomorrow I’ll be in Wakenaam, Leguan and I’ll continue paying visits to the riverine areas particularly. As Adam has said, it’s been a long time since the President was here. This is because it’s a big country and even if I went to one village everyday it would take me 200 days to go to all the Amerindian villages, much less the Indian and African and other villages.
So it’s impossible for me to be everywhere all the time but I enjoyed being here and I particularly asked my Minister of Social Protection to ensure that this Easter-time we put emphasis on the riverine areas. If I wanted I could go to Friendship, I could go to Albouystown, I could go to Hope Town but being here is a deliberate decision on my part.
So thank you for coming out in your numbers, thank you for putting up with this hot sun, thank you for your kind welcome and I’d like to close by wishing you a very happy Easter. I hope you enjoy the gifts of the kites, of the books, of the pens but I hope what you will continue to do is to have faith in the government that together we can work to solve the problems facing this village and the other villages here in the Pomeroon in this great region, the Pomeroon-Supenaam Region.
So thank you very much, Kabakuburi, and may God bless you all.