Elections controversy threatens unity of Orealla…
Controversy over recent elections for a Captain and Village Council has the once closely-knit Amerindian reservation of Orealla divided, but the government seems intent on backing the current Captain and Council.
The division was clear Friday when two separate celebrations were held for Heritage Day, with a group of protestors calling for the resignation of Amerindian Affairs Minister, Pauline Sukhai.
Orealla, a community which had its genesis in the late 1880’s, is located an estimated 50 miles up the Berbice River from Crabwood Creek.
It is the only Amerindian reservation in Region Six and is made up mostly of Arawaks and Warraus, two of the nine remaining nations or tribes of Amerindians existing in Guyana.
The controversy which has divided the community is the April 28 Elections.
Chief Justice Ian Chang has ordered Sukhai to declare the elections invalid and to call fresh elections.
The Amerindian Affairs Minister has asked the court for time to respond to the Chief Justice’s ruling.
Controversy erupted in the village when villager John King was disqualified from contesting the elections for the post of Captain.
The Amerindian Affairs Minister and the Region Six Administration had supported the decision to rule King ineligible, and as a result, McLean Devair was re-elected Captain.
King has complained about several irregularities in the elections process and also disputed claims that he was not a resident in the village for three straight years and thus could not qualify to contest the elections.
He took the matter to court when the Amerindians Affairs Minister did not support his arguments.
Orealla was selected as the village to host Heritage Day celebrations this year, and the celebrations went ahead as planned, with Devair still functioning as Captain.
He donned his Amerindian headdress and welcomed Sukhai and Prime Minister Samuel Hinds to the village Friday for the celebrations.
However, while there was a massive turnout for the planned celebrations, a group, upset about the elections process, bore placards that claimed corruption in the village and asking about the democracy that the ruling People’s Progressive Party talked about.
Regional Chairman Zulfikar Mustapha, who said $50M was spent on development projects in the village and the satellite village of Siparuta, called on the people of Orealla to support Captain Devair and his councilors.
“You must not allow people to come and divide you,” he told residents and visitors who packed into a $5M benab he helped Sukhai and the Prime Minister commission the very day.
He went further, telling the people they should not allow “strangers” to divide them, but instead “stay focused.”
In her speech, Sukhai alluded to the fact that political instability at the national level has caused development to be eroded and she warned that that could filter down to the community level.
But a group of residents, clearly upset with Sukhai’s handling of the matter, called for her to “step down.”
The protesting residents and those who support them held their own celebrations on one of the hills in Orealla, while the others celebrated downhill.
The celebrations downhill was organised by the government and the Council and included a speech by Prime Minister Samuel Hinds and several cultural presentations, including a dance by a group of Amerindians from the Surinamese Amerindian community of Apoera.
While many danced downhill in the new benab, another grouped danced in a benab uphill. On the hill, the placards were posted on trees and on buildings.
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