Mar 23, 2010 News
Minister of Amerindian Affairs, Pauline Sukhai, yesterday said that Amerindians cannot read or write their own languages, and so questioned how effective it would be if the Low Carbon Development Strategy (LCDS) would be translated.
Sukhai declared that all Amerindians speak English, and she said it would be insulting to suggest that they did not understand the LCDS consultations.
However, she contradicted herself later, indicating that there were cases where some Amerindians could not understand the presentations in English and so interpreters were called in, some of them even being paid.
Speaking at a press conference held at the Ministry of Amerindian Affairs, Sukhai said that the frequently asked questions about the LCDS were translated into some Amerindian languages, but she questioned how effective that was since the Amerindians don’t read or write their language.
Weak or non-existent translations were among concerns raised by the Amerindian People’s Association regarding consultations held last year in Amerindian communities.
Amerindian leaders, in a hard-hitting statement, demanded action from the government and the international community to advance the land rights of indigenous peoples and ensure that the principle of free, prior and informed consent (FPIC) is respected.
“Our top priority is to secure our traditional lands and territories,” said Toshao Devroy Thomas, from Arau, Region Seven. “Outstanding land claims must be resolved and our rights secured before mining, logging, or any other project that may have direct or indirect impacts on our traditional lands, territories and resources proceeds.”
Sukhai restated the government’s earlier claims that the forest-saving plan does not include Amerindian lands.
An independent review of the consultation process conducted by the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) had suggested that audio-visual films explaining key facts about the LCDS could help Guyana’s Amerindian people understand better.
The report noted that bi-lingual translators were catered for in the conceptual framework for the LCDS consultations and were on hand and utilised as required at the sub national sessions.
According to the report, the Ministry of Amerindian Affairs responded to calls from Amerindian leaders in the early consultations for documents to be produced in their own language. As a result, it was noted that a process of translation into five languages was commissioned, but this was only contemplated for the LCDS fact sheet.
While underscoring the complexity of translating written texts, the review team stressed the need for the translation, citing as an example, the effect of translating of the Amerindian Act in one Amerindian language.
“The recent experience of the Makushi Research Unit in North Rupununi has shown that translating sections of the Amerindian Act has allowed for a definite deepening and internalisation of the nature and tenets of this law.”
Given the challenges and time consuming effort involved, the monitoring team recommended that the translations be done after the revised draft of the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) is produced, and to use the updated LCDS text for producing the translations of native languages.
They also recommended that quality checks and peer approvals of these translations be done so as to ensure acceptability of same.
Alternatively, it was recommended that oral translations can also be made using the revised FAQ and that an optional format could be that of making an audio visual film (short documentary – video or DVD) of bilingual translators presenting key concepts and components of the LCDS.
This, the review team said, would be an effective way of getting the message across in a direct and interactive way.
“Most villages have access to video machines, so showing a video, or playing an audio tape on a tape recorder would be quite suitable,” the review team stated.
While downplaying the effectiveness of language translations, Sukhai told the media that the National Toshaos Council was organising another series of consultations to help the Amerindians better understand the LCDS.
The World Bank, last year, announced the approval of a US$200,000 seed grant to support the development of the LCDS, including community awareness activities to be co-ordinated by the National Toshaos Council.
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