Jun 20, 2022 News
– Isseneru villagers object to compensation matter being addressed at toshaos conference
Kaieteur News – The Isseneru Village Council has objected to government using the upcoming National Toshaos Conference to discuss issues of compensation for the community following an Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) ruling that the Government of Guyana is guilty of violating the rights of residents and that they should receive reparations.
The Community’s leaders are hoping that villagers will get full compensation for damages. The villagers also recently called for a cessation of all mining activities. In a press release last week the Village Council said it took note of a media report which states that Minister of Amerindian Affairs, Pauline Sukhai said she supports putting in place measures of reparation for the rights violations of the village.
“We would welcome His Excellency President Ali and his ministers to visit our village to discuss the measures that would be required as reparations for the material and immaterial damages we have suffered in accordance with the decision of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights,” the Village Council said.
It added: “We do not believe that the National Toshaos Conference is the appropriate forum for this discussion, however. The NTC Conference is a forum for the Toshaos from all the villages in Guyana to engage with one another and discuss common priorities across the country. However, the Conference only involves the participation of the Toshaos and not all of our villagers, and there is no time at the Conference for detailed discussions on specific village issues.”
The Village Council outlined that discussion around reparations for “our rights violations should occur in our village, with all community members present. They must also occur with the President and those Ministers who are responsible for implementation of the recommendations. We will need to begin in-depth discussions with those relevant authorities around, among other things, legal recognition of the full extent of our traditional lands; restitution of the lands that have been taken over by mining interests without our consent; and various forms of compensation for the damages we have suffered.”
“We look forward to reading the Government’s report to the Commission and to working together as equal partners in implementation of the Commission’s recommendations. We
are disappointed that the Government has not yet come to meet with us to discuss the Commission’s decision, but we are hopeful that such a meeting will happen soon and that we will be given adequate notice to prepare for the same.”
In wake of the decision by the IACHR back in May villagers at a news conference called for swift action. The news conference was hosted by Toshao of Isseneru village, Dhaness Larson and other village officials. Nine years ago, a petition was filed by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) that the Government of Guyana has failed to recognise and protect the human rights of its people when granting mining permits on ancestral lands.
According to complaints, villagers said the authorities failed to protect the community from the negative impacts of mining which resulted in a host of health and social problems. In a recent decision, IACHR recommended that Guyana implement the measures for Isseneru Village in Region Seven (Cuyuni-Mazaruni) and its members to receive full compensation for damages on the account of the violation of their human rights. Additionally, the IACHR advised government to “amend its legislation in order to secure that the provisions of the relevant Acts and regulations related to indigenous territorial property are in harmony with the American Declaration, in accordance with international law according to the present merits report.”
As such, Isseneru villager are hoping that the government will be swift in its implementation of the IACHR’s recommendations, including, among other things, that the necessary measures be adopted to ensure that the village and its members receive “full reparations for the material and immaterial damages they suffered on the account of the violation of their human rights.” “For years, we have felt the negative impact of these actions. Our waterways have been populated, our natural environment destroyed, our livelihoods diminished and our residents left to face a growing number of social ills,” Toshao Larson told the news conference on Friday. The Toshao called on the government to “take significant steps” to address the violations.
The Toshao also advocated for a revision of the 2006 Amerindian Act, to further help protect the rights of indigenous people. He announced that consultations will continue with the villagers to determine the way forward. During the press conference representative of the Amerindian People’s Association (APA) and Isseneru villager Dwight Larson, noted consultations will allow the community to craft possible solutions that it will present to the government.
“It is an urgent matter and we are prioritising it in every possible way,” the APA representative said. Since 2012, Akawaio Amerindians from the village of the Isseneru in Region Seven have been claiming that their rights were violated and the governance of their village undermined by the State. The matter was taken to the High Court but the outcome was not in their favour. Amerindians from the Upper Mazaruni, had among other things, 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) had 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 claimed 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. The villagers claimed 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.
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