Feb 21, 2013 News
– want Govt pressured to revise Amerindian Act
Amerindians from the Upper Mazaruni have taken their case of land rights violations to the United Nations, hoping that the Special Rapporteurs could help force the government to revise the Amerindian Act.
The Amerindian People’s Association (APA) teamed up with international NGO Forest People’s Programme to write the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples; the Special Rapporteur on the Human Right to Safe Drinking Water and Sanitation; the Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food; the Special Rapporteur on Cultural Rights; United Nations Independent Expert on Human Rights Obligations relating to the Enjoyment of a Safe, Clean, Healthy and Sustainable Environment; Special Rapporteur on to the Enjoyment of the Highest Attainable Standard of Physical and Mental Health; and the Special Rapporteur on Environmentally Sound Management and Disposal of Hazardous Wastes and Substances.
The NGOs claim that the threats faced by the Akawaio communities of Isseneru and Kako due to mining on their lands are grave, imminent and substantial.
“They are faced with irreparable harm to their social, cultural and environmental integrity if mining is allowed to continue and increase in their lands,” the NGOs stated.
They claim that the “discriminatory rulings” of the High Court privilege the interests of miners over Isseneru and Kako; allow this mining to take place with impunity; negate the rights of the affected communities; and disregard extant domestic laws such as the Mining Act and Environmental Protection Act. The groups say such situations demand international oversight and action, particularly in light of Guyana’s explicit refusal to act on the prior recommendations of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (UNCERD) that seek to remedy the discriminatory aspects of the Amerindian Act.
The UNCERD had highlighted the urgent need for Guyana to comply with these recommendations, both by explicitly requesting that it submit information on compliance with one year of their adoption and in its subsequent communication under its follow-up procedure, which stated that its concerns had become “all the more urgent” due to the deteriorating situation in Guyana, the NGOs stated.
Late last year, and again in January, the court held that in the case of Isseneru, the Village Council has no jurisdiction over the activities of miners on the basis of when the State granted title to its lands.
“Isseneru’s title is presently almost completely engulfed in mining concessions that, by law, it can do nothing about, and about which it was not consulted and did not consent,” the APA and FPP stated.
In the case of Kako, the judiciary held that its Village Council has no authority to prevent miners entering its titled lands on the basis of the provisions of the 2006 Amerindian Act, nor any right to prevent mining in its traditionally owned lands outside of this titled area.
In April 2006, the UNCERD found that the Amerindian Act discriminates against indigenous peoples in many respects.
The APA and FPP stated that Kako’s traditional lands are also covered by numerous mining concessions that were issued without its knowledge.
The Amerindians of the Upper Mazaruni want the government to amend the Amerindian Act of 2006 in line with its concluding observations of 2006 and in particular, that it ensures that indigenous peoples are able to consent to and control mining on their lands and territories (titled or otherwise), including bodies of water therein, without regard to when title may have been issued and without regard for the date the Amerindian Act of 2006 entered into force.
They want the government to instruct the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission (GGMC) not to issue mining permits or concessions within indigenous lands and territories, titled or otherwise, without first obtaining the consent of the affected community and/or indigenous peoples in accordance with their customs and traditions and through their freely chosen representatives or institutions, and that it amends Section 53 of the Amerindian Act accordingly.
The NGOs are demanding that the government immediately suspends and, where necessary, and revoke all mining concessions not consented to by Isseneru and Kako and which affect their traditionally owned lands whether titled in accordance with the Amerindian Act or not.
Further, they want the GGMC to not apply the discriminatory distinction between lands held under title issued by the State and lands held under title pursuant to indigenous customary tenure and law with respect to the prohibition of medium-scale mining under the Mining Act.
The NGOs are calling for the government to amend the Amerindian Act, as a matter of priority and urgency, to recognise and reflect the inherent nature of indigenous peoples’ rights and to establish procedures for land titling that are grounded in and consistent with those rights, rather than continue to pursue unilateral and arbitrary actions with regard to indigenous land titling that fail to regularise their pre-existing and inherent rights.
In addition, they want the government to ensure that indigenous people have access to effective and prompt judicial and other remedies to seek protection for their rights, and immediately act to ensure that the judiciary is made aware of indigenous peoples’ rights and pass the necessary laws or regulations to ensure that the type of injunctions that were adopted in relation to Isseneru and Kako are not adopted in the future.
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