The National Toshaos’ Council (NTC) conference of 2018 opened on Monday with Chairman Joel Fredericks putting government on blast for a number of unimplemented promises.
According to Fredericks, they were promised a number of things; including constitutional reform and the revision of the Amerindian Act of 2006.
However, Fredericks noted that in the three years of the incumbent APNU/AFC government the trust has been eroded by their failure to effectively act on these promises.
He also took umbrage to the group occasionally being labelled as “oppositionists” because they fight for their rights.
In her address, Minister within the Ministry of Indigenous People’s Affairs Garrido Lowe warned the Toshao’s to “beware of wolves in sheep’s clothing.”
She pleaded for patience, noting that they are working to improve indigenous people’s lives while acknowledging that much remains to be done.
Since taking office in 2015, the Administration has failed to issue new land titles, causing the NTC to call them out for this failure.
Indigenous Peoples’ Affairs Minister, Sydney Allicock, has said that only 26 per cent of the Amerindian Land Titling Project has been completed.
The minister told the Parliamentary Natural Resources Committee that the ALT work programme which commenced in 2013 will require another decade before it could be completed, although the project’s life comes to an end in October 2018.
According to him, only about 25 per cent of the total US$10 million earmarked for the project has been utilised thus far – some Gy$500 million, or US$2.5 million.
The Government in 2013 signed a US$10.7 million agreement for the implementation of the Amerindian Land Titling and Demarcation project, which concluded in 2016. However, an extension in 2017 was requested, resulting in $165 million being earmarked for the advancing of the remaining identified areas.
So far, 13 communities have applied for absolute grants for the first time. Of that number, seven have received approval and six have been demarcated. Out of 23 communities, 14 have been issued with certificates of title. But not one single community has so far received a title under this Government.
The ALT project seeks to achieve three major goals: completion of land titling issues and demarcation process for all Amerindian villages that submitted requests; increased use of existing and alternative mechanisms to resolve land titling disputes; and a communication strategy, including a handbook describing the process of titling, demarcation, and social economic impact of secure land tenure.
The project is being financed from the Guyana REDD+ Investment Fund (GRIF) under the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) Low Carbon Development Strategy (LCDS).
Meanwhile, as the NTC 2018 Conference gets underway, the Opposition, PPP/C in a statement raised concerns that Government has not made any reference to funds being made available for developmental programmes for the Amerindian communities, be it community development plans, or any other developmental works in those communities.
Another newer and even more worrying development, according to the PPP, has been the intrusive role of the Government in the declaration of new Local Authority Areas (LAA) in Amerindian titled lands in violation of the 2006 Amerindian Act and the amendment to the Local Democratic Act 2006 which “removed any council established in an Amerindian community” from inclusion in LAAs.
“This newer challenge is very serious. The Amerindian governance structure is separate and distinct layer from the LAAs. Without notice or consultations, the Government included Amerindian villages and communities in gazetted orders to establish these new LAAs.”
Describing them as impositions on the Amerindian people, the PPP said it revealed the scant respect the Government held for the people and their elected leaders.
As such, the Party said it hoped that the NTC will ensure that there was clarity and commitment by the Government on these and other issues including the proposed amendments to the 2006 Amerindian Act.
The PPP said it hoped that the revision of this Act does not harm Amerindian rights and ensures that there is the widest possible consultation in the communities across the country.