Sukhai says there was no “handcuffing” of Toshaos under PPP; Garrido-Lowe says leaders now have freedom
Minister within the Ministry of Indigenous People’s Affairs, Valerie Garrido-Lowe during Monday’s opening of the National Toshaos Conference said for the first times in years the Toshaos are able to speak freely under the Coalition government, however, this did not find favour with the Opposition.
Garrido-Lowe said “we promised to bring change … Freedom, freedom to speak and make your own choices without fear… the fact is people were afraid to speak and be seen with us when we were in opposition much less have a banquet with us, like we were leopards or something, many of you who were brave enough to meet with us were branded as opposition you were told that only the previous government had all the answers for you and that the opposition was something bad …but that is not so the opposition is an important arm of the legislature.”
She informed that the government welcomes the discussions with the Indigenous People and the Opposition, noting that they too need an understanding of the issues affecting these communities, reasoning that only then could the opposition be supportive of the initiatives to be implemented.
Garrido-Lowe also pointed out that for the first time in the history of the National Toshaos Conference, the National Toshaos Council is chairing the opening ceremony.
The Minister said for two years in succession the Government has allocated 65 million dollars for the conference, citing that under the previous government in 2013 55 million was allocated and in 2014, 58 million.
However, some of her statements did not sit well with opposition MP and Former Amerindian Affairs Minister, Pauline Sukhai, who denied claims that Toshaos were not given the leverage to speak during the reign of the PPP/C administration.
“That is not true, everyone knows that the NTC was established formally by the Amerindian Act and they have been given the scope and support to grow and also to act on their own, there has been no handcuffing of the NTC under us, in fact they were given a lot of leverage,” Sukhai said.
Sukhai said she understands from “inside sources” that there was a fight over who would chair the event with the NTC chairman and Vice Chairman walking out of the planning meeting to show their disapproval of a ministry official chairing the conference.
According to her, it was only after this firm action by the NTC that they were allowed to take control.
She also raised objections with Minister Sydney Allicock’s presentation, noting that he took too much time bashing the leaders.
“What he did there was very good for a workshop,” noting that his criticisms gave the impression that the Toshaos are not good enough.