By Kurt Campbell
[www.inewsguyana.com] – Several Members of the Amerindian Peoples Association staged a protest in front of the Guyana International Conference Centre [GICC] on Wednesday where the 7th annual National Toshaos Council Meeting is being held, accusing the Government and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) of having no respect for their concerns.
The association made reference to the US$10.7 million Amerindian Land Titling Contract which was signed between the Government and UNDP on Monday, October 21 at the opening of the five day meeting – where democratically elected village leaders come together to engage the Government, raise their concerns and collectively discuss a national approach in coordinating strategies for their development.
The contract, according to Government will aid in advancing its Land Titling Project which has already seen 97 Amerindian villages receiving titles and 77 being demarcated.
However, Laura George who spoke on behalf of the Association registered their dissatisfaction at UNDP for what she says was a disregard for concerns and recommendations made in relation to the agreement.
“We are disappointed that the UNDP, understanding the UN Conventions to which Guyana is signatory which they should be representing and upholding here in Guyana have gone ahead and signed the agreement” she said, adding that “the project used the Amerindian Act as the legal guiding force and we highlighted what has been the shortcomings and inadequacies of the act and made recommendations to the UNDP but they have refused those.”
George told the media that among their concerns is the fact that the Amerindian Act does not recognize the lands that they have occupied throughout the years.
“A lot of our titled lands are not lands that we occupy and use… it is crucial that our lands are legally recognize and titled but with the way things are it is the Government in the end that decide which and how much we get.”
The Amerindian Peoples Association member also called on the Government not to pressure Toshaos and Amerindian Leaders into endorsing agreements and programs that they have not fully understood the pros and the cons of.
“We are here to support our Toshaos, and to tell the Government to respect our leaders and deal with our problems adequately not to just wash it off and say bring a letter to us and we will deal with it,” George added.
She made it clear that their concerns especially in relation to how lands are titled were raised in the past and said that they will continue to speak out on the issues until they are adequately addressed.
Yesterday, Attorney General Anil Nandlall while addressing the meeting told those present that the Amerindian Act was not designed to operate independently. He said what is missing is the multi-faceted approach needed to implement the act.
The Amerindian Act of 2006 was passed on February 16, 2006 and assented to by then President, Bharrat Jagdeo on March 14, 2006 paving the way for Amerindians to empower themselves socially, economically and politically.