first_imgThe recent statement by the Ministry of Indigenous Peoples Affairs issued against the National Toshaos’ Council (NTC) calls for worry.As expected, political bias is the best and sole argument the Coalition could afford to justify the lack of majority consensus from indigenous leaders and the National Toshaos’ Council regarding its presidential Commission of Inquiry (CoI) launched into both African land reparation and indigenous land claims.Unfortunately for the Sydney Allicock team, the NTC is a democratically constituted body of almost 200 Amerindian leaders, led by an Executive body of 20, in which majority consensus guides decision-making. Mandated by the Amerindian Act 6-2006, the NTC is tasked with, among other things, guiding Allicock in his policy-making, but always in the greater interest of Amerindians. It is therefore natural that, excluded from the discussions which birthed the said CoI, and considering the context in which the CoI was launched — overtly bypassing protocol and indigenous rights — the NTC should sternly object to its establishment. It is equally comprehensible that the NTC should want no part to play in the establishment of a CoI which defies more than a century’s worth of struggle for Amerindian rights in Guyana.This horrendous accusation by team Allicock, however, comes despite the minister being fully cognizant of the fact that, since 2014, Amerindians continue to benefit from a multi-stakeholder Amerindian Land Titling Project (ALT) funded by LCDS revenues (consequentially exempt from Guyanese tax dollars). ALT was designed to address all land encumbrances, including mining, forestry and lease claims, through active stakeholder engagement and in strict respect for procedures detailed in the AA6-2006. The aforementioned project was launched after 3 years of active consultation with stakeholders. Three years.By its mandate alone, ALT not only annuls this presidential CoI, but also provides much wider scope and transparency for the resolution of Amerindian land claims. What’s more spurious than Allicock trying to legitimize the CoI against the backdrop of an already functional, UN-partnered land titling programme is the fact that, to date, his Government has failed to produce evidence of similar nationwide consultation with Guyana’s First Peoples; that the Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) of Amerindians was obtained by majority consensus.Yet Allicock demands that NTC Chairman, Toshao Joel Fredericks, produce evidence of the Government’s violation of FPIC, without realising that his administration has no proof to justify that a nationwide inclusive decision-making, consultative process was conducted. Unsurprisingly, when questioned by the media 3 days ago, Minister of State, Joseph Harmon, indicated that he was unaware of whether the NTC was consulted over the establishment of the CoI and the drafting of its ToR.Harmon then fallaciously defended that Allicock provided ample details to a section of the NTC during a recent confab in the Rupununi, despite a recording of the minutes of that meeting indicating otherwise.Hardly has anyone seen such abusive treatment meted to Amerindians by the Government of Guyana. Allicock’s grotesque efforts to discredit the NTC merely reinforce the plausibility of him being a mere marionette, instrumental in the African land reparations agenda which piggybacks on Amerindian land titling in a desperate attempt to equate its cause to indigenous land rights.In establishing this CoI without the Free, Prior and Informed Consent of Amerindians and their elected leaders, represented through the body of the NTC, the Coalition has stampeded the indigenous land rights guaranteed and protected inter-alia by the Independence Act Cap 14 S 17, the AA 6-2006 and the UNDRIP. Subsequently, the Coalition is the real instigator of the ethnic tensions it claims have risen from the NTC’s efforts to protect Amerindian land rights, it hinders the formation of a socially cohesive society much necessary for nation-building.Despite the threats and attempts to intimidate and dissuade the NTC from procuring help from international actors, all indigenous organisations and representatives of indigenous peoples must stand tall against this unabashed bullyism. Minister Harmon confirmed that the CoI is a presidential directive, and that the President has absolute power over the issuance of titles.When it comes to Amerindian land rights, any such autocratic comportment by President Granger is a violation of the internationally recognized founding principles of indigenous rights (including Art. 11, 19 and 32 of the UNDRIP).But in modern-day Guyana, no President, especially any who fancies historical revisionism, must be allowed to promulgate party agenda at the detriment of citizens.last_img

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