‘I haven’t broken any promises’ – President to Indigenous Peoples
By Bibi Khatoon
President David Granger has denied claims that his Government has broken promises made to the Indigenous peoples three years ago when he was elected to office.
Moments after Chairman of the National Toshaos Council (NTC), Joel Fredericks blasted the Government for failing to move ahead with Constitutional Reform, the Amerindian Land Titling Project and Revision of the Amerindian Act, the President told media operatives that the NTC also has responsibilities.
Delivering his remarks in the presence of over 200 Indigenous leaders, President David Granger, Prime Minister, Moses Nagamootoo and a complement of Government Ministers, Fredericks noted that the Indigenous peoples had high hopes in the government.
However, he claimed that over the years there has been minimal progress on the issues highlighted.
Addressing the President directly, the outgoing NTC Chair noted that when the Government changed in 2015, there were high hopes among the Indigenous population that “we have found a government that looked out for us.”
“Every time we make promises and break them we erode the trust people have in us and our integrity.
“It provides room for lost hope; we must give people hope, not have them lost,” he declared.
Fredericks said he still believes that the Government can do good as he called on them to learn from their mistakes.
“Three years we kept our ears to the sounds and tunes that came out of your office and bit by bit, word by word, policy by policy, we saw the vision being eroded,” he said to the President.
Also present at the forum was outgoing Vice President of the NTC Lenox Shuman who along with other Indigenous Leaders are in the process of forming a political party to contest the 2020 General and Regional Elections.
Minister of Indigenous People’s Affairs, Sydney Allicock attempted to address the issues raised, noting that the processes have begun.
A new executive body for the NTC will be elected on Wednesday. The Minister urged the new executive to avoid being used for partisan reasons as he also called on them to consult with their village leaders often.
“Instead of casting doom and gloom situation, I’ll like to say to incoming NTC that you have an opportunity to further discussions,” he told the packed dome at the Arthur Chun Conference Centre.
Following shortly after, the Head of State delivered his address but did not respond to the pertinent issues raised.
He instead encouraged the development of Village Improvement Plans to promote access to the available public services.
Approached by the media as he was leaving the Arthur Chun conference Centre, he denied that his administration has since broken any of its promises.
“I don’t know of any promises being broken. They asked for a plot of land and I been there and turned the sod myself, and it’s being processed…I haven’t broken any promises,” the President stated.
On the other hand, he said the NTC itself has certain responsibilities. “I came here two years ago and proposed the establishment of an Indigenous Peoples Authority. The important thing is planning and implementation. I’m not blaming a soul,” he added.
The NTC was opened under the theme “Preserving our past, protecting our future”. The week-long activities will include meetings with various Government Ministers where the indigenous leaders will get to air their concerns.