… Garrido-Lowe calls for greater understandingAmid much pomp and ceremony, and an array of spectacular cultural performances, Amerindian Heritage Month 2016 was officially launched at the Heritage Village at the Sophia Exhibition Centre, on Thursday evening.President David Granger received a token to commemorate Heritage MonthThe huge benab, however, could hardly contain the massive crowd of Guyanese from all walks of life, who joined President David Granger; Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo; Minister of and Minister within the Ministry of Indigenous Peoples’ Affairs, Sydney Allicock and Valerie Garrido-Lowe; other Ministers of Government and members of the diplomatic corps, to celebrate with Guyana’s first people.All who graced the podium, whether to bring greetings or give addresses, registered the resounding call for unity and a deeper appreciation of the Amerindian way of life.President David Granger, delivering the feature address, lamented the significant threats which face Indigenous communities and which prevents them from reaching their “God given potential”.“The cultural heritage of our Indigenous communities unfortunately is under threat. The slow pace of economic growth threatens communities, limited economic opportunities over the last two decades has caused distress and migration to other nearby countries. It has also had a harsh effect on education, and health, environmental degradation through mining and logging, in some cases there has been alcoholism, Trafficking in Persons (TIP)”, the Head of State said of the state of affairs of Amerindian communities.“Our Constitution says that Indigenous peoples shall have the right to the protection, preservation and promulgation of their languages, cultural heritage and way of life. That is a right”, the Head of State told the massive crowd.He reminded that every year in September, Guyana renews its commitment so that these rights are not diminished in any way.The Head of State said Indigenous people are the custodians of the hinterland, as it is they who protect the country’s natural assets and who,through intimate relationships with nature and sustainable agriculture in fishing, forestry, hunting and mining, passed down the customs and practices for centuries.President Granger, however, noted that these can only be preserved and protected if there are cohesive communities, free from the threat of social decay and economic decline.He acknowledged that the Indigenous communities are generally remote and distant from the main population centres, and consist of many settlements, many of which are isolated and scattered.“The management of scores of these communities is compounded by the complexity of development issues,” the President said, stressing that these communities therefore need very strong structures of Government.He said because of the small numbers of communities and the large and great distances between them, it is often difficult to give them the quality of service they need and deserve.The President explained, “These threats, if left unchecked will hasten disintegration and the hinder the ability of Indigenous communities to propagate their values, traditions and way of life. We need therefore some administrative agency, which will ensure that decisions which are made by the National Toshao’s Council and the National Assembly through the Ministry of Indigenous People’s Affairs are implemented”.According to him, while culture is important, it would be under threat unless there are apparatus and mechanisms to ensure that the communities are prosperous. He again proposed the establishment of the National Indigenous People’s Authority (NIPA) to ensure all decisions are implemented.“Implementation is the muscle of progress. Intentions will remain wayward without implementation”, the President said.Meanwhile, Minister within the Ministry of Indigenous Peoples’ Affairs Valerie Garrido-Lowe, urged those present to take time to learn about all Guyanese culture.With that done, she said, it will to some degree prevent the spewing of misconceptions as was done by Pandit Deodatt Tillack, who at the interfaith service on Wednesday evening, ranted about his preconceived way of life of Amerindians.“How else would you learn to love and care or each other and how else would you learn to give, and achieve social cohesion… during my childhood in the hinterland, I have never met a person who willingly offered their 12-year-old girl children to warm men’s bed. That is a crime known by all nations,” Garrido-Lowe said, noting that the pandit erred on Wednesday evening during his remarks.“Guyanese, let us learn about each other, try to understand each other and celebrate together this special Indigenous Heritage month”, she urged.