Amerindian land demarcation awaits Norway funds
- LCDS opt-in mechanism still being worked out
With US$70 million still sitting in a World Bank account, Norwegian money under the forest saving deal with Guyana has not yet reached the local treasury, and this could well have a bearing on Amerindian land demarcation.
Minister of Amerindian Affairs, Pauline Sukhai, confirmed last week that the Norway funds which are intended to be used to speed up land demarcation have not yet been received. She is counting on $600 million to get the job done for this year.
With the expectations for the funds, the Ministry has set out its programme for this year. This includes demarcating another eight titled Amerindian communities, titling another 13 communities, and reviewing applications for extensions.
Sukhai defended the government’s record on Amerindian land rights issues, saying that what has been accomplished since the PPP/C took office is a “significant achievement.”
She said that in 1992, there were 74 villages that held titles to their land, but today there are 96 titled Amerindian communities. In addition, she said in 1992, just one Amerindian community was demarcated, while today 77 titled communities have been demarcated.
If the demarcation of the eight communities for this year goes ahead, that will leave just five communities to be demarcated. However, she said these communities have not approached the government to have their lands demarcated.
Sukhai said the government does not demarcate Amerindian lands unless they ask, and she was adamant that no community that has requested demarcation was forced to do so by the government.
She lamented that land demarcation efforts are being stymied by one organisation (supposedly the Amerindian People’s Association which she once protested against) and is causing “great stress” for the communities awaiting demarcation.
Sukhai said that the mechanism under which Amerindian communities can “opt in” to the Low Carbon Development Strategy (LCDS), under which Guyana signed a five-year forest saving deal with Norway, has not been finalised.
She said that the National Toshaos Council would be taking a lead in expanded consultations in the finalisation of the mechanism.
Sukhai said that further consultation on the LCDS is not needed, as the Strategy is “a simple concept.”
She said that the LCDS is built upon the model practised by the Amerindian for centuries – that of utilising the forest and its resources without destroying it.