Opposition Leader Dr Bharrat Jagdeo is demanding answers on exactly when Government intends to fulfill its mandate of allocating Amerindian land titles.
He outlined that since the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) left office in 2015, their has been a delay.
Speaking during a recent press conference, Jagdeo called for the President to answer for the delayed Amerindian Land Titling (ALT) project. He pointed out that apart from the titles they had already processed; no new titles have been given out.
“When does he plan to give out the new Amerindian land titles? We left a significant amount of money, US$10.7 million, in the Amerindian Land Titling project, to continue the work of giving out land titles.”
“They have not given out a single one!” Jagdeo pointed out “Except for those which were already prepared in the past… not a single one. When does he plan to do that?”
In May, Indigenous People’s Affairs Minister Sydney Allicock had admitted only a quarter of the money for the project was spent. The Kingdom of Norway had provided US$10.7 million through the United Nations Development Project since 2013.
At the recently held National Toshaos Council (NTC) Conference, land titling was one of the areas Government was criticised for. Government, for its part, has said that it needs an extension on the life of the project.
Government has also faced criticism over its handling of the ALT project from members of the Opposition. Matters came to a head when Minister Allicock appeared before a parliamentary committee meeting on natural resources in May.
“I have not been able to title any village, because we want to do things that are truly reflected in the Free Prior and Informed (FPIC) process,” the Vice President had informed the media at the time.
The Minister told the Committee that the ALT work programme will require another decade before it could be completed, although the project life comes to an end in October 2018.
He had explained that funding was not the constraint, but claimed that the project was faced with manpower issues, as there is need for an anthropologist, and equipment also to support it.
“Several communities are targeted for demarcation and work is continuing,” Allicock asserted despite members of the Opposition calling for the Minister to provide greater explanation on the matter.
The Minister also indicated that it was likely that an extension would have to be sought to allow for all unresolved Amerindian land titling. He said, “We are in discussion and we are hoping that we could have another extension. We would have to come up with some justifying facts to seek an extension.”
Meanwhile, Opposition Member of Parliament (MP) and former Amerindian Affairs Minister Pauline Sukhai had argued strongly that from the information provided on the project, it seemed that the Government was dragging its feet on the issue and as such, the land titling process was now at a standstill; a label Allicock had denied.