Nov 06, 2010 News
Toshaos who refused to sign a document supporting REDD+, the United Nations programme under which funds would flow to poor countries for avoiding deforestation, have earned the ire of the head of the National Toshaos Council (NTC), Yvonne Pearson.
In an interview with this newspaper several Toshaos from the Pakaraimas in Region Eight expressed a lack of understanding of the Low Carbon Development Strategy (LCDS), which the government is using to seek international partnerships and incentives to protect 15 million hectares (37 million acres) of forest under REDD+.
Support of the LCDS is included in the resolution the state-owned media said the leaders fully supported when they met in Georgetown at a government sponsored meeting.
Some of the village leaders, or Toshaos, this newspaper was able to speak with after the conference said they had never heard of the resolution until it was read to them by Pearson.
Stabroek News reported that eight Toshaos of the Upper Mazaruni it spoke with rejected the resolution on the grounds of lack of consultation.
Pearson, this week in defending the resolution, said it would have been impossible to consult the over 100 Amerindian leaders who were at the meeting. As a result, she said it was decided by the executive of the NTC to draft the document. Afterwards, Pearson said she read it and Amerindian leaders were asked to give their comments.
In an earlier interview, Pearson herself admitted that all of the Amerindian people did not understand the LCDS.
“No, no,” was her emphatic response when asked whether all the Amerindian people understood the LCDS. She said the National Toshaos Council is seeking funding from the World Bank, which has committed to assist with the public education exercise.
The World Bank has committed US$200,000, she said, US$65,000 of which will go towards the public sensitization programme.
“We have not been able to really get out there because of lack of financial support,” said Pearson.
Because not all the Amerindians would understand in English, she said that interpreters would be needed for some villages in Regions Seven, Eight, Nine and parts of Region One.
Thursday, Pearson also rejected concerns about the US$250 Million forest saving deal with Norway. She said the full agreement is available and she was sure that all Amerindians can read.
So she asked: “What is the real reason behind not supporting this simple resolution?”
She wondered whether the Toshaos were not on a political campaign to deface “everything that is being done.”
She also took issue with the insistence of some Amerindian leaders on Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) and suggested that the leaders were using the term too loosely.
She quipped whether the leaders would have FPIC before having lunch.
Pearson said that Amerindian leaders have nothing to fear about and it was not as if by signing the resolution they were signing their arrest or death warrant.
Toshao Derek Williams, from Kamana Village in Region Eight, said all Tosahos were asked to sign the document and “I was sitting at the top of the row and my fellow Toshaos in Region Eight had to sign that and I feel left out. I don’t want to sign it very well, but everybody had to sign it, so I ended up signing it.”
He said that when Pearson read the resolution it was the first time he was hearing of it. Further, he said that he was never invited to any consultations about the LCDS. He said one workshop was held by the Amerindian Peoples Association, a Non-Government Organisation, in the neighbouring village of Kurukubaru.
Regis Cyprian, the Toshao of Kopinang, also in Region Eight, was frank about how he felt about the resolution. He said he signed the resolution because he understood that “the money” will help the village. But he certainly does not understand REDD.
He said: “That is one thing I don’t understand – the REDD; I would like to understand it.”
The Toshao of Waipa, also in Region Eight, said he signed the resolution because he was told to sign it.
He said: “They say all captains to sign resolution…I was only told there was a resolution to sign.”
Vernon Austin, from Kaibarrupai Village, Region Eight, said he signed the resolution even though his people don’t like the LCDS.
“I signed it already. But you see my people don’t like it, I signed it because I am Toshao; I lead them,” said Austin.
The Toshao said that he was simply trying to get help for his village, so some economic activity
According to a report carried in the Guyana Chronicle, the resolution affirms that the Amerindian communities are in full support of REDD+; that the National Toshaos Council is the sole authority to represent Amerindian interests to the Government of Guyana; and the international community must consult it and the Government of Guyana on issues concerning Amerindian villages.
The report said that the Resolution also highlighted support for the LCDS, as it is consistent with Amerindian traditional practices of utilising the forest in a sustainable manner.
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