President David Granger on Monday recommended the formation of an authority oversee and fast-track the implementation of decisions by the National Toshaos Council (NTC) and other decision-making bodies; an announcement that has drawn sharp criticism from shadow Indigenous People’s Affairs Minister, Pauline Sukhai but welcomed by the NTC Chairman.
Granger envisaged that a five person National Indigenous People’s Authority (NIPA) to implement decisions by the NTC, Cabinet and the National Assembly because of the fragmented system in place spread across several ministries to address various problems in health, economy, physical infrastructure, social protection, culture, environment.
“We need to clothe the Ministry of Indigenous People’s Affairs with the authority to act decisively to deal with some of these problems,” he said to loud applause. The President charged Minister of Indigenous People’s Affairs, Vice President Sydney Allicock to recommend measures to establish NIPA. He explained that the authority would work under the Ministry of Indigenous People’s Affairs to support the NTC as part of efforts to ensure there is a higher and equitable quality of life between the coastland and the hinterland.
NTC Chairman, Joel Fredericks welcomed President Granger’s announcement, while at the same time stating that he would prefer NIPA to include two NTC representatives. “I believe it’s a good idea from the President and I support it and I believe the Toshao Council should be a part; at least one or two members should be a part of the five member team to make things happen because we are the people who go out in the fields and we know the issues out there and we can easily communicate with our people and bring back information so His Excellency (the President) can be well-informed,” he said.
However, the opposition People’s Progressive Party Civic’s Shadow Minister of Indigenous People’s Affairs expressed serious concern that the NIPA would subvert the NTC and the Indigenous People’s Affairs Ministry. “I notice that there is an attempt to usurp the power of the NTC now and even the Ministry of Indigenous People’s Affairs where now you are going to propose to establish a five-man committee to implement decisions. I don’t see independence in that,” said Sukhai who was the PPPC’s Minister of Amerindian Affairs up to May, 2015 when her party lost power to the Granger-led APNU+AFC coalition. Sukhai shied away from saying how NIPA would usurp the NTC and
Ministry’s role, but said that is “my speculation” at a time when there are two ministers of indigenous peoples, highly technical staff and the NTC.
Asked what she thought was required to fast-track decision implementation by the NTC, she said government needed to provide lots more money to fund a range of activities. Sukhai said she did not give much thought to the possibility that there could be lots of cash available but no administrative mechanism to implement decisions.
Sukhai reiterated that nothing has been done to resolve outstanding land-related issues, and the construction of a dormitory for tertiary level students who are in Georgetown although money has been budgeted for the structure.