Georgetown, Guyana – (September 9, 2017) President David Granger, today, issued a called to Indigenous communities to craft strong, effective Village Improvement Plans (VIPs), which will guide the process of development in their respective villages and help them to secure a better quality of life. He was at the time speaking at the Heritage Village celebrations at Pakuri Village, which is soon to become the official name of what has been known as St. Cuthbert’s Mission.

The President said that in order for villages to move forward they must be guided by a plan that is built on the pillars of education, employment for all, environmental protection and economic diversity, which “will help Pakurians to work systematically, year after year, to help make sure that they achieve their objectives and they provide that good life that we all desire”. The Head of State quoted the old adage “it takes a village to raise a child” and called on residents accept the responsibility of ensuring that each child in the community attends school. He also urged them strive for higher education outside of their villages, noting that this is the way out of poverty and the gateway to a better life.

With regard to job creation, the President said that every single resident can find gainful employment in their community but in order to do so, they must improve on their methods of farming, agro-processing, logging and craft making and manufacturing so that they can compete in the market place. “We can provide full employment in Guyana; right here in these villages… I am confident that every single Indigenous child in this country can get full employment by using the resources found in their village and they can do this because of the traditional knowledge and we have to be able to access the markets more aggressively,” the President said.

In terms of economic diversification, President Granger explained that while it is important to maintain traditional economic activity, the time has come for more focus to be placed on non-traditional value added production. “Let us look to economic diversification. Everything you can produce can be processed. Everything you grew up eating can be processed, could be packaged, can be bottled and sold in the Caribbean or in the supermarkets in Guyana,” he said.

With regard to protection of the environment, President Granger reminded the gathering that Guyana is home of some of the rarest flora and fauna as well as pristine forests and as such it is the responsibility of every Guyanese to ensure the protection of the natural patrimony for generations to come. He also called on residents to begin to explore the use of alternative forms of energy.

Meanwhile, Minister of Indigenous Peoples’ Affairs, Mr. Sydney Allicock, in his remarks, said that it is important to take time out to celebrate the successes that have been achieved with regard to the contribution Indigenous People have made to the development of Guyana but noted that efforts have to be made simultaneously to fix the projects and programmes that were not so successful. In this regard, he called on all stakeholders to work together to realise these improvements. “We must work tirelessly to ensure that all of the rights of our residents are known to them. Each and every villager must understand their role so that they can make a contribution to their own development,” the Minister said.

He also handed over a quantity of musical instruments to the community, which has a vibrant cultural group. Toshao of Pakuri Village, Mr. Lenox Shuman disclosed that his community is currently in the process of reaching out to partners to support the development of a comprehensive music and performing arts programme. In this regard, the Ministry of Indigenous Peoples’ Affairs provided a guitar, tambourines and drums.

Head of the National Toshao’s Council (NTC), Mr. Joel Fredericks said it is very evident that the current Administration is committed to the development of Indigenous Guyanese. He noted that this is demonstrated by the fact that the Government has increased the budgetary allocation to the NTC from $12M to $16M, provided a plot of land for the construction of the secretariat for the Council and has started to work towards the revision of the Amerindian Act of 2006.

The Heritage Village celebrations saw hundreds of people from all walks of life gathered to enjoy and participate in the cultural activities. Apart from the cultural display by the Pakuri Villagers, colourful arts and craft and delicious Indigenous delicacies were showcased. President Granger also took the time to try some of the dishes, while meeting and greeting those in attendance.

Minister of Social Cohesion, with the responsibility of Youth, Sport and Culture, George Norton, Minister within the Ministry of Indigenous People’s Affairs, Ms. Valerie Garrido-Lowe and Minister of Public Affairs in the Ministry of the Presidency were also in attendance at the event.

Pakuri Village, which was founded in the late 1800s was initially named Pakuri, but this was later changed to honour the arrival of the first Anglican Priest, who arrived in the village on St. Cuthbert’s Day. Toshao Shuman has made and application to officially reclaim the original name, a move, which the Head of State described as an exercise in authentication.

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