Amerindian Leaders disappointed with $16M subvention, believe Gov’t favours minister’s comfort
By Devina Samaroo
Having received more than $20M less than what they requested to finance their operations for next year, Amerindian Leaders are left to conclude that perhaps a minister’s comfort is more important than the issues affecting indigenous people.
Vice Chairperson of the National Toshaos Council (NTC), Lennox Shuman on Friday, December 01, 2017 told reporters that the Amerindian people are disappointed with the $16M proposed for the organization for 2018 – a figure which represents no increase from what it was given for 2017.
“When you look at the $16M subvention for example and yet you provide roughly 40% of that to providing housing for ministers, I think Minister [Simona] Broomes got $500,000 a month for housing allowance, [and] added over a year that’s $6M and for us, you’re giving us $16M as an organization that represents all indigenous peoples and I think there might be a misplacement in priorities,” Shuman stated at a press conference at the Regency Hotel on Hadfield Street, Georgetown.
He added that “what that says is that maybe a minister’s comfort is more important than the indigenous people’s issues.”
Shuman asserted too that the $16M is grossly inadequate to fully execute the work programme of the NTC.
“How do you promote good governance in indigenous communities? You don’t do that from Georgetown. You have to go to communities and do an outreach and meet with the councils and so forth. If all of our monies are utilized with the executive meetings then we have nothing left to go into communities to do that work,” he stated.
NTC President Joel Fredericks said it costs approximately $4M for a quarterly meeting of the executives.
Shuman added that the NTC is mandated to develop strategies for the sustainable use of lands and resources but pointed out that the leaders are unable to do that if they are not funded appropriately.
He noted too that the NTC is supposed to make provisions for the preservation of indigenous languages but again, limited funding hinders the progress.
In further putting matters into context, Shuman explained that Toshaos are only given a small stipend of $30,000 monthly while the leaders in Georgetown are benefiting significantly more.
“Our leaders are receiving a stipend below minimum wage and they’re the Justice of Peace, the Police, the Counselor, the mommy, the daddy, the everything, the resource manager in many communities and yet you have ministers who are getting a hundred, two hundred, three hundred, I don’t know how many percent increase in their wages and they sit in parliament and enjoy air condition and sit in a fantastic house and get their maid service and chauffeurs and everything else,” he explained.
The NTC is hopeful that since the 2018 budget hasn’t been finalized, the government will consider their issues and accommodate a larger subvention.