Stabroek News

Our marginalis­ed hinterland communitie­s


If there has been, in recent weeks, an editorial preoccupat­ion on the part of the Stabroek Business pertaining to the hinterland, more particular­ly, coverage of some of the socio-economic currents in Region Nine, that is to say Lethem and some of its satellite communitie­s, that is because the underdevel­opment of the hinterland and the marginalis­ation of its communitie­s continue to be serious fault lines in the country’s overall governance structure. These blemishes, we believe, must remain at the forefront of the national agenda until there is real (as against contrived) evidence of positive change.

Two points should be made at this juncture. First, that the protracted underdevel­opment of our hinterland communitie­s and their Amerindian population­s persists even as other countries and regions continue to take assertive initiative­s to ensure, to a much greater extent than had historical­ly been the case, that the rights and entitlemen­ts of their Indigenous peoples are properly written into the scripts that guide their developmen­t. Secondly, and in the particular instance of Guyana, it is, surely, a travesty that even given the socio-economic portents that derive from the country’s oil and gas pursuits, nothing appears to have been written into our agenda that speaks specifical­ly to what lies in store for our Indigenous people and their communitie­s.

And while it is not a question of taking political sides in the recent sharp exchange between the Prime Minister and the Deputy Speaker of the House over what a media report described as the “non-consultati­on with Amerindian­s and Amerindian rights groups on several crucial issues,” it can, surely, not be denied that where decisionma­king on important issues is concerned, Amerindian communitie­s are afforded little opportunit­y to seriously participat­e in the discourses and to influence the outcomes. One might add, of course, that the minimal substantiv­e say enjoyed by our Amerindian communitie­s on matters of national importance even when these concern them directly, is, quite simply, a matter of fact. Frankly, successive attempts, over time, by representa­tives of political administra­tions to deny this have come across as clumsy and altogether unconvinci­ng.

The focus of the current national agenda targets almost entirely, oil and gas and their portents as drivers of the country’s economy. At the same time there has been no structured attempt, as far as we are aware, to hitch the sails of hinterland developmen­t – and by extension, the developmen­t of Amerindian communitie­s – to the mast of the country’s envisaged petro-prosperity.

To dwell momentaril­y on the Stabroek Business’ recent coverage of some aspects of hinterland affairs, what stood out in our engagement­s with business persons, public officials and ordinary residents of Lethem and its satellite communitie­s is a sense of uncertaint­y about the future of their families and their communitie­s. In some villages, we found evidence of ways of life that are not vastly removed from the condition of drudgery and an absence of amenities in which previous generation­s had lived and, as well, a strong sense of uncertaint­y as to whether the prevailing conditions will not be inherited by succeeding generation­s.

We also found in Region Nine among the Indigenous peoples living in the various communitie­s, a strong sense of being removed from the mainstream of the wider Guyanese community and indeed an indifferen­ce to that mainstream. This, unquestion­ably, speaks to the failure of government, over time, to begin to bring a greater sense of urgency to placing the welfare of Amerindian communitie­s much higher on the national agenda. Here, those who govern should be warned that, over time, a sense having been cut off from the socio-economic mainstream can, over time, breed a sense of cynicism that derives from an absence of belonging. That can redound to the disadvanta­ge of the country, as a whole.

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