Shuman welcomes move to place Indigenous land titling back on the agenda, but wants strict timelines set

Opposition Member of Parliament Lenox Shuman

Deputy House Speaker and Member of Parliament, Lenox Shuman, on Thursday, welcomed the announcement by the PPP/C Government that it will be tackling the issue of Indigenous Land Titling head-on, but called for strict timelines to be established.

“I am happy to hear that in the Government’s budget presentation that they are putting Indigenous Land Titling back on the map and they are going to be pursuing that,” Shuman said via a video posted on his social media page.

However, while expressing his satisfaction, the Member of Parliament noted that he would like to see  strict timelines within which the issue would be settled.

Shuman detailed that the issue of land tiling dates back to 206 years ago when this country was given to the British by the Dutch in 1814. He explained that that was the dateline from which indigenous land titles were recorded as having to be “respected and corrected”.

He further argued that addressing land titling was one of the conditions under which Independence was granted.

Not long after the PPP/C was sworn in to government, it announced that it will give urgent attention to resume the Amerindian Land Titling project it had started prior to 2015.

During his budget presentation on Tuesday, Public Infrastructure Minister, Juan Edghill, said the administration will be resuming the Amerindian Land Titling programme with vigour to ensure the rights of indigenous peoples are, once again, protected.

Edghill expressed that for the last 5 years, indigenous peoples were told of “lofty promises and sold candy dreams but with no delivery”. He said that promises were made to provide more jobs, improved healthcare, access to education and acceleration of the land titling programme etc.

“The reality is, from 2015-2020 there was the dismantling of the Community Service Officers (CSOs) programme putting almost 2,000 young Amerindians out of work, the stymieing of the Amerindian Land Titling Unit and the removal of resources previously earmarked for the development of their communities, such as for 6,000 household solar panel systems”.

According to Edghill, in light of the lacklustre performance of the previous Government and the debilitating far-reaching effects of COVID-19, Budget 2020 brings special meaning to Guyana’s first peoples.

“In this Budget, we will facilitate support for our indigenous people in the areas of food security, youth development, student welfare, women initiatives, agriculture, eco-tourism and grant monies to fund social and productive micro projects,” Edghill said.

He added that Government is committed to the prosperity of indigenous peoples, and will redouble efforts for their economic and social development. To this end, $800 million has been allocated to the Amerindian Development Fund (ADF).

The ADF, he noted, will be providing $300 million for the purchase of tractors and accessories to incentivise agricultural economic activity within indigenous communities. Economic projects to generate income and stimulate growth will also be undertaken in the areas of farming of non-traditional crops, agro-processing, poultry rearing, and livestock rearing, among others.

Additionally, he announced that Amerindian communities will be benefiting from the COVID-19 cash assistance announced by this Government – about 19,000 Amerindian households are expected to benefit from the $25,000 cash transfer, with an allocation of about $475 million.