The National Toshaos Council (NTC) and President David Granger were Tuesday at odds over that Indigenous People’s organisation’s claim that it was never consulted about a Commission of Inquiry into land rights.
The NTC, the legally representative body of Amerindian village chiefs, said the Commission has been established by the President to “dispossess” Amerindians of their lands and that they would not cooperate with that body.
“The National Toshaos’ Council, a body comprising of all Toshaos of Guyana and a representative body of the Indigenous Peoples of Guyana, having never been consulted in the formation of such a body, cannot, with any degree of sanity nor confidence, respect such a body, and will refuse to cooperate with such a body,” the NTC said.
The Toshaos called on the President to repeal of the Commission of Inquiry into individual, joint or communal ownership of lands, along with Amerindian land titling issues and to instead stick to his promise in 2015 to establish a “Hinterland and Indigenous People Lands Commission”. “We are forced to remind His Excellency of that commitment and to immediately seek for him to hold that commitment to the Indigenous Population of Guyana. We call on His Excellency for a complete repeal of the mandate of this Commission and to establish the Indigenous Peoples’ Lands Commission,” the NTC said.
The Toshaos warned that Granger’s failure to keep his promise would clearly demonstrate that Guyana’s Indigenous Peoples are being marginalized by the Government of Guyana once again.
However, President Granger on Tuesday appeared adamant that there were consultations and the decision to establish the commission was made a meeting of the Toshaos Council. He alluded to the fact that Attorney-at-Law, David James, a former Legal Adviser to the Amerindian People’s Association (APA) is a commissioner, an indication that there were consultations.
The President did not say whether the NTC was among those that had been consulted.
The governing body of Amerindian Village Chiefs expressed support for the urgent Reparations and the Repatriation of African lands but at the same time cautioned that “the Indigenous Lands issue cannot and should not be viewed in the same light, nor can it be addressed under the same framework.”
“The Indigenous Peoples, by Law, are entitled to their Traditional Lands, while the Africans are entitled to lands that were sold to their Ancestors. It is this very separation that needs to be clearly identified and defined. It is also in realizing that these two issues are separate issues that we must address them separately,” the NTC said.
The Council noted that in the Amerindian Act of 2006, as a matter of Law, there exist a process that speaks to the issue of Amerindian Lands. That, they said, is in addition to the Amerindian Land Titling Program, informed at great lengths by the Amerindian Act, Guyana’s Constitution, and International Law, there exists a very robust framework that speaks to Amerindian Lands.
The village chiefs said that framework was developed by all key stakeholders from the Indigenous fraternity and the Government of Guyana through agents from the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission, Guyana Forestry Commission, Guyana Lands and Surveys Commission, Ministry of Indigenous People’s Affairs, Guyana Gold and Diamond Miners Association, Guyana Women Miners Association and the United Nations Development Programme.
Rev. George Chuck-A-Sang has been appointed to head the Commission, which includes Mr. David James, Mrs. Carol Khan-James, Professor Rudolph James, Mr. Lennox Caleb and Ms. Paulette Henry and Ms. Belinda Persaud