Preserving indigenous identity not at expense of sustainable economic development – Pres. Ali
President Dr. Irfaan Ali on Monday pledged his government’s full support towards the preservation of indigenous culture and identity but said it should not be at the expense of economic advancement for the country.
“A delicate balance needs to be created for sustainable development,” the Head of State said as scores of Toshaos and leaders from over 200 indigenous villages converged at the Arthur Chung Conference Center (ACCC) for the 2022 National Toshaos Council (NTC) Conference.
Over the next five days, they will raise specific challenges they face – many of which will be linked to ensuring equity, indigenous rights and the preservation of their culture and identity.
The government will work with the leaders to craft strategies to ensure this is achieved but in crafting those strategies the government said it will not be at the expense of economic development for indigenous villages and the country at large.
“Every PPP/C government wants to do the best it can do for Amerindians. Not just because we want to do it but because you are no different from the rest of the population and we will treat you with the same respect,” Dr. Ali said to a packed dome at the ACCC.
He said the governing PPP/C, which convened the first NTC Conference in 2001, has a track record of preserving indigenous heritage but said at the same time the government will sustainably use land and other resources at its disposal to transform the lives of those indigenous people and their villages.
“Preservation of culture and identity does not mean at the expense of the best quality of life.
“The government will work every single day to uphold the delicate balance of promoting livelihood and securing your cultural identity and the environment,” Dr. Ali added.
Moreover, he told the indigenous leaders that their communities, many in the country’s interior regions, will benefit from upliftment fuelled by the oil and gas resource.
He said too that the government did not wish to dictate the shape that development should take as he underscored the reason for the conference being held under the theme: “Good Governance and Fast-Tracking Amerindian Development.”
“You have to go back and answer to them and we have to answer to you and that’s why the government needs to be integrally involved here… your rights will always be protected by this government,” he added.
The president promised improvements in agriculture, health and education even as he encouraged the leaders to speak frankly and openly in the consultative engagements over the next five days.
“Our plan is a simple plan; it is a plan that seeks to involve you in determining what is best for you and in charting a course that will deliver the best quality of life for you.”
The president announced increases in stipends for Toshaos from $30, 000 to $45, 000 while their deputies will now receive $25, 000, up from the $15, 000 they previously received.
The opening of the NTC conference on Monday also saw two absolute grants and five certificates of titles being given to indigenous leaders.