Aug 10, 2013 News
By Tiffanne Ramphal
Even as the Minister of Amerindian Affairs and members of other Amerindian-represented organisations joined together with the National Toshaos’ Council to commemorate the year’s International Day of the World’s Indigenous People, the occasion quickly turned from celebrating indigenous people to rebutting recent picketing exercises by Amerindians concerning their rights as land owners.
Under the theme ‘Building Alliance: Honouring Treaties, Agreements and other constructive arrangements’, the day was highlighted with the chairman of the Toshoas Council calling on all members of the Amerindian communities to work together in making constructive arrangements.
He said that the theme that is being used to commemorate the auspicious day is relevant because as indigenous people are striving to progress, they need to build alliances with other people, and thus, treaties and agreements need to be honoured.
Minister of Amerindian Affairs, Pauline Sukhai, also joined in with the commitment of providing continued support to move Amerindian development forward in Guyana, while noting the international concerns that beset indigenous people around the world.
“These international and national issues have to be continuously addressed. We stand firm in solidarity and will collaborate with all like-minded people internationally with respect to advancing the development of all indigenous people.”
With the vocal commitments being made to support the local indigenous people, however, the scores of Amerindians who hosted a picketing exercise outside the Ministry of Amerindian Affairs, even as the conference was ongoing, were convinced that they were not being given the support and representation they needed, especially as it relates to their lands.
The protest comes in the wake of a similar exercise held outside of the Parliament Buildings during a sitting of the National Assembly on Wednesday last.
“We are here protesting again for our rights… our land. The GGMC, the Government is giving away our lands and we are suffering,” were the words of Kateri Pablo at yesterday’s picketing exercise.
Similar sentiments were expressed on Wednesday, with the members of the group making comments of their “rights being trampled on.”
In response, the Minister stated that the Guyana government has “bent backwards” and has provided a lot of support to the communities that are located in mining areas. “They have been represented totally,” she said.
Additionally, responding to claims by the protestors of rights to their lands being trampled on, she noted that since those communities that are located in the mining districts are also involved in mining, moves should be made to regularize their concessions since without legitimate ownership, doors will be open for others to apply.
“The Ministry of Amerindian Affairs has been providing quite a lot of guidance to all communities in such locations, to regularize themselves; to obtain lawful permission and licences and permits to mine. Similarly, if private businessmen want to apply for a mining permit, they register, they get the permit, they get the licence and they operate.”
“Once formal application is made, the property holders will have full authority over the mining in the area,” she added. “We can only encourage them to regularize themselves.”
With this being said, however, the Minister pressed for those occupying the mining districts not to be selfish and greedy.
“This is not a country with only indigenous people. We are all part of society and we must begin to foster that unity. I will not tolerate people pushing an agenda to separate people and to deny others rights in this country which they too wish to enjoy.”
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