President David Granger: Regional Chairman, Mr. Devanand Ramdatt, Chairman of this great Pomeroon-Supenaam Region; Honourable Nicolette Henry, Minister of Education; forgive me, I always greet my host first, because if I don’t greet the Chairman first, I mightn’t get a chance to come back.
Whenever I go to an indigenous community I always find out who’s the Toshao – well, Mr. Ramdatt is the Toshao of the Pomeroon-Supenaam Region. Ms. Leslyn Boyce, Director of Youth; Administrator, Mr. Dover; other members of staff; regional officials; students of the New Opportunity Corps; members of the media; ladies and gentlemen; friends.
I’m very happy to be here this morning. It’s a special visit; I am here to find out from you what you think. I haven’t come here to walk around and inspect and take photographs; I have come to listen to you; I have come to learn from you and I have come to make some decisions about how we move forward in the New Opportunity Corps, in the Ministry of Education, in the Pomeroon-Supenaam Region and in Guyana as a whole.
You are special people. You know, people like me, eventually we will get old and we have to go away and who will we leave this country to but you? You have to take over this country so it is my choice, it is my vision that you must get the best possible preparation to allow you to take over this beautiful country and that is the reason why I am here. I don’t have a choice; I can’t carry Guyana with me. I can’t carry State House with me. I can’t carry my vehicles with me. I can’t carry the airplane with me. I have to leave all these things for you so I want to make sure you know what to do with it. I want to make sure that you are ready to take over this country.
In this regard, I would like to start by congratulating the staff of the New Opportunity Corps and of the Department of Culture, Youth and Sport of the Ministry of Education. I would like to congratulate the region for its support and interest in this school – a unique school in Guyana, but most of all I would like to address my remarks to you.
This morning will be a special morning. I don’t believe, you know, that you should have a church situation here where you have the priest on one side and the congregation on the other side so after I finish speaking, we are going to change things up a bit so we can listen and learn from you. But I just want to make some brief remarks- you know presidents always make brief remarks; if he speaks for twenty-five minutes, its brief remarks; if he speaks for an hour and twenty-five minutes its brief remarks, so I’ll make some brief remarks.
First of all, the most important thing that you can do in your lives apart from eating and dressing and living in a house is, of course, your education. Your education determines who you will be; what you will do, whether you will be rich or poor, whether you will be successful or a failure and the purpose of your being here is to ensure that you get the best possible education in your circumstances. So students, I’m here because this is June and in July we start to plan for the next financial year.
Last year we presented a budget in November. This year we’re going to present the budget in November, so we only have July, August, September and October to decide how much we are going to spend in this country. This year we spent about two hundred and fifty billion dollars and education has got a big bite of that budget and recently we made some changes in the Ministry of Education because we have to speed up the rate at which education is being delivered. We have to make some changes. Everything changes in this world, you change, the country changes, so part of the purpose for my being here is to make sure we plan for the New Opportunity Corps for the next financial year and I have four months to make that plan so that I can go to the National Assembly and the National Assembly will say, “What you want to do with that money?” And I will be able to say, I want to make the New Opportunity Corps a better place for the boys and girls of Guyana.
You know, I have been coming to this region over the years, some of you might not have seen me, but I went to the other part of the Essequibo- the Pomeroon River. You don’t have a highway there; it’s just river. The gas station is on the river; your car is a boat- if you want to go to school you got to go into a boat, but I discovered that many children in the Pomeroon were not going to school because they could not afford to get a seat on a boat to go to school at Charity or wherever the school was so many of them were staying home. They are dropping out of school so I decided and the government decided that we should have a slogan ‘Every Child In School’ (ECIS).
Every child must go to school in this country and as soon as I became President I got a boat, I came up to Charity; I came up to Pomeroon-Supenaam Region. I came up to Region Two and launched that boat so that children can go to school at Charity. That is the importance of education; that is the importance of Region Two to me. I didn’t go to Region Six or Region Ten; I came to Region Two to launch that first boat. Since then we have gotten buses. I was in Mainstay, Tapakuma where we presented a bus so that children can go to school. My wife helps me to get some bicycles so that children can go to school. Buses, Boats, Bicycles, so that children can go to school, that is my concern. I don’t want a single child in this country to drop out of school so I just want you to understand that going to school is important for me; staying in school is important to me and it’s important for you too because whatever you want to do, you must be able to read, write, spell and count. If you want to become a computer operator; if you want to become a business person, you must be literate. If you want to open an internet café you have to be literate; if you want to drive a minibus you have to know to spell bus.
I have met some young people, not in here, in different parts of the country; they can’t spell dog, they can’t spell cat. Sixteen years old, they’ve ear studs and they can’t spell bat. We cannot build a country with illiterate persons that is why I want all of you to take your education seriously and that is the first and most important reason why I have come here today.
The second reason is that I want all of you to have a job when you leave this institution. Everybody must be employed. I want to see full employment in this country. I don’t want to go by Supenaam and see people loitering at two, three o’clock in the afternoon. I don’t want to go by Charity and see people by the market there. I don’t want to go around the villages of this country and see unemployed young people because if you are unemployed, you cannot be earning enough to keep yourselves and your family. If you are unemployed you won’t be able to get a house. If you are unemployed, you will not be able to enjoy the good life that we have promised you.
Your employment is key to happiness. I want to see happy households. I want to see daddy and mummy and children, everybody happy, eating well, but all of this depends on employment, but to get good employment you have to be educated. Nobody is going to employ you as a pilot if you can’t spell plane, nobody is going to employ you as a minibus driver, if you can’t read S.T.O.P on the road. Stop! So, your education is important to getting good employment.
The third thing I want to leave with you is enterprise. Enterprise just means business, getting involved in business. You know, some like to work with the Government; they want ‘lil wuk’. It is good to be employed, but I can tell you about Government servants, some of them are employed poor. They are employed, but they’re poor. So as the Head of Government I am not asking you to try to become Government servants. I’m not offering you positions in the army and the police, only so many people could go in the army, only so many people could go in the police, only so many people could go into the civil service- the public service. What I want you to do is become entrepreneurs- become young business persons, open your own businesses.
And that is why I’m glad Mr. Ramdatt is here because a few weeks ago he invited me to come up to Pomeroon-Supenaam Region and we had a wonderful exhibition, a Regional Agricultural Commercial Exhibition and after that I went to the Mahaica-Berbice Region (Region Five) and we had a wonderful exhibition. And before that I went to the East Berbice-Corentyne Region, Region Six, and there as a wonderful exhibition. Then I went to Linden in Region Ten, Upper Demerara-Berbice Region. I believe in the regions, that’s why last year I created three towns. Mabaruma is now a town. It is the capital town of the Barima-Waini Region (Region One). Region One is bigger than Trinidad and Tobago. It now has a capital town. I want Mabaruma to have its own regional agricultural and commercial exhibition.
I created a town in Bartica. I created a town in Lethem, in Region Nine, the Rupununi. Region Nine is bigger than the country of Costa Rica, but what I feel is that all of these regions can produce food and that is what I saw at Anna Regina, at the Pomeroon-Supenaam Regional Agricultural and Commercial Exhibition. People brought their goats; people brought their cows, their pigs. People manufactured goods and we had a beautiful exhibition.
What I’m trying to tell you students is that there’s profit in private enterprise. Everything this region produces, every cherry, every mango, every guava could be bottled, could be packaged and exported. If you produce guava you can make guava jam, guava jelly, guava cheese. If you produce passion fruit, if you produce cherry; this region was leader in producing fruit juices. You can stay right here and become rich.
This region is one of the biggest rice producers in this country. The Pomeroon is rich. A few weeks ago I was here at Easter time, I went up the Pomeroon, all the way up to Kabakuburi and somebody gave me a bottle of coconut water marked Trinidad and Tobago, but that coconut water is produced right here in the Pomeroon-Supenaam Region, it’s the best coconut water in the world coming from this region.
I have a friend in Georgetown, I went to his home. He asked me if I was thirsty. I said, “Yeah man.” “You want some coconut water?” I said, “Yeah man.” When he gave me this coconut water I said, “Where you get this from?” The man came from the Pomeroon and carried Pomeroon coconut and planted it in Georgetown that is what he did. And sometimes, when you go into the supermarkets you see people selling coconut water from different countries.
I’m a Head of State so I can’t call the name of the countries, but when you drink it you want know what happened because you ain’t feel nothing, but we produce the best coconut water and we are exporting coconut water now to the Caribbean. All I’m trying to tell you students, is that there is money in enterprise and this Regional Agricultural and Commercial Exhibition, which I saw right here a few weeks ago in May month, just last month; look how time flies when you’re having fun. Soon y’all won’t be here you know. Time is flying all the time.
So I see Pomeroon-Supenaam, I see every single region in this country being capable of producing and processing agricultural products, agricultural goods. You go to Rupununi now, people are giving you bottled cashew nut butter; people are giving you dried tomatoes. All over this country there is an upsurge of production. You go to the Linden Trade Fair, you go to Bath Settlement, you go to Region Six; people are producing at household level, at neighbourhood level, at community level so I’m very hopeful about the economy of this country.
To develop this country economically you don’t have to bring in a big mine, you don’t have to bring in some huge shipping company, but right here at the grassroots level, in the neighbourhoods, in the municipalities, in the communities, in your homes you can start to produce products which other people in the Caribbean would like to buy and use.
And finally – I told you presidents always make brief remarks. You see I’m being brief right? Yeah. It’s the environment. This is the most beautiful country in the Caribbean, this country. I wish that after you leave this institution you get an opportunity to see how big and beautiful we are. This is the biggest country in the Caribbean. If you took all the Caribbean countries and added them up, Antigua and Barbados and Belize and The Bahamas and St Vincent and the Grenadines and Saint Lucia, Grenada and you pack all of them together, they’d still fit into Guyana with room to spare.
We are fortunate and this is the country that you will inherit, but for you to inherit this country we have to protect it and preserve it and that is why the environment is so important to us because if we damage the environment, we damage your future. All of us here on this stage, I don’t know how old you are but everybody look like they are over eighteen years of age.
I don’t like to call ladies’ age because I may say they look like they are thirty and they say, no, no I’m just 23. [Laughter.]
But we inherited the country from our parents and grandparents. We are only the trustees. We have to hand over the country to you so we can’t damage it; we can’t ‘bruk’ it up. We have to protect and preserve it so we can hand it over to you and when you get, it don’t drop the ball. You have to protect it because you have to hand it over to your children.
You know, to fly over this country ‘make your eye run water’ you know. When last you cry? And I ain’t talking about crying from licks you know. I’m talking about crying from pride to see our coastland, to see these lakes. You know some people don’t know Guyana has lakes? Tapakuma Lake and Capoey Lake, and this is the region with the lakes.
We have extensive grasslands in the Rupununi. When you see the Rupununi, when you see the Berbice savannahs, we have wetlands. Our national bird the Canje Pheasant comes from the wetlands, the swamps. The swamps are not a nuisance- something to fill in, the swamps have their own life, their own biodiversity, snakes, caimans, birds.
We have our own highlands; some of you have never seen highlands. We have our own islands in the Essequibo River not far from here and three of those islands, are bigger than the British Virgin Islands in the Caribbean, Leguan, Wakenaam, and Hog Island, bigger than the British Virgin Islands in the Caribbean.
We have beautiful rivers, beautiful waterfalls. As I said, when you see these things your eye would run water and I would ask Mr Dover and the administrators of this centre to make sure that from time to time, if you’re not getting it already, you see some movies about this beautiful country, and then I could imagine how proud you would all feel.
So we have to protect this environment because the environment protects us. The environment helps us to live by providing food from farms, fishing grounds, forests. The environment could provide the basis for a tourist industry so people can come from afar to see our beautiful flora and fauna, or birds.
In the Kanuku mountains alone in the Rupununi there are more species of birds than the whole of Western Europe. All of you got exercise books? Lift up the exercise books, let me see. Look at that! You recognise anybody on the cover? You recognize anybody? You don’t know anybody on the cover there? Those are some of the biggest animals in the whole world. The arapaima is the biggest freshwater fish in the world. The anteater is the biggest anteater in the world. The caiman is the biggest caiman in the world. The tapir is the biggest tapir in the world. The armadillo is the biggest armadillo in the world. The camoudi is the biggest snake in the world. All of these things come from your country; all of these things come from Guyana.
So I want you to leave this institution being proud of the fact that you have a better understanding of the need for education. When you leave here you will want to become entrepreneurs; when you leave here you are not going to be satisfied with being unemployed, you will want to be employed. And when you leave here you will be more committed to protecting the environment of this beautiful and bountiful country.
So this is my message to you today New Opportunity Corps. I would like to thank you for your warm welcome and we can now go into this next part of our engagement. Thank you very much and may God bless you all.

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