Govt Minister calls out Indigenous peoples over land claims

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…says all Guyanese have a right to resources

Some Indigenous villages in the country have failed to adequately occupy and accordingly utilise the lands that they possess, yet, they are applying for more access to lands.

This is according to Indigenous Peoples’ Affairs Minister Sydney Allicock, who, at the launching of Indigenous Heritage Month 2019 on Sunday, pointed out that while the issue of land rights is important, Indigenous peoples need to take into consideration that they are not the only ones who are entitled.

“Then, there are those (villages) that have outgrown their land space. Let us firstly justify our need for land extension, showing how, and what plans are in place to utilise the additional land….It is also important that Indigenous peoples understand that all Guyanese have a right to share in the distribution of our resources…,” Allicock told the gathering.

Minister of Indigenous People’s Affairs Sydney Allicock

He stated that Indigenous peoples across the country need to collaborate with others to find “a middle ground” in relation to ownership and rights of lands that belong to the country.

“Our land rights are multifaceted and while it is important that our policy makers understand the value of space for other forms of life to survive, many villages have been applying for land extension with no clear vision with how the land will be used.

Claims for ancestral lands which our fore parents used…to hunt, fish and farm now need to be supported by a village improvement plan,” he explained.

Minister Allicock further noted that a village improvement plan is important in identifying development that is needed and that this should be the focus of the Indigenous communities in the country.

“It is only you who would be able to know what your most valuable resources are and what kinds of projects will be benefitting to you. We have to be able to understand what we have so that we can better plan. We have to be able to develop a land management plan to keep us properly organised so that 100 years from now, we would still be able to have our lands bringing benefits to us”.

According to the Indigenous Peoples’ Affairs Minister, the APNU/AFC Government did not set out to deprive Indigenous persons of their lands, but instead, the administration is “encouraging efficient land management” of resources in a country with a growing population and rapid economic development”.

“Our development hinges on our ability to efficiently manage and sustain our resources. In almost every village, there is an abundance of natural resources,” he added.

Just recently, former President of the Amerindian Peoples’ Association (APA) and Chairman of the Upper Mazaruni District Council, Toshao Mario Hastings, said that in cases where titles may have been issued, these were done without consultation and without the Free Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) of Indigenous peoples.

Inevitably, this has resulted in severe challenges on rights violations since Indigenous peoples’ right to own, use and occupy traditional lands is constrained in many ways, he noted.

“Our hunting, fishing, spawning, farming, gathering grounds, lie outside of our titled lands. Our sacred sites outside of titled lands are being desecrated by mining which is done without our consent. We are faced with fragmented titles enabled by deficient laws that do not recognise our collective right nor support our collective decision making”.