Last Updated on Sunday, 30 July 2023, 22:12 by Denis Chabrol
The Chinese Landing Village Council on Sunday said they have agreed to permit a broad-based government fact-finding mission to visit their community to address security and environmental concerns stemming from the “invasion” of their legally titled lands by gold miners, in keeping with a decision by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR).
The Council said immediately after receiving government’s correspondence in July 28, they immediately met and recommending to the government that August 2-3 “is an appropriate time for this visit.”
“We look forward to working with the Government towards implementation of the Commission’s recommendations. We expect that the Government will seek to visit our community as the Commission has requested, and we are glad the Government has sought our permission to do so,” the Village Council said in a statement on Sunday,” the Council said.
The Council wants government to indicate what authority they have from relevant State bodies “so that we can be assured that the team visiting the village is authorised to take the measures necessary to implement the IACHR’s recommendations.” “We hope that this meeting can start the process of agreeing on and adopting steps for the long-term protection and safety of the community,” the Council said in their statement.
In a statement issued at the weekend, Minister of Parliamentary Affairs and Governance Gail Teixeira noted that after the Chinese Landing residents requested precautionary measures from the IACHR on March 8, 2023 government assembled a team so that an “unbiased and comprehensive response informed by facts, evidence and records could be submitted to the IACHR.”
She said a team of technical experts drawn was mobilised to visit Chinese Landing to assess the situation, gather more information, and commence interventions to address the claims, especially those regarding threats, harassment, and violence against the Amerindian people there , as the law is clear on the consequences of such actions. Ms Teixeira said the team found out that there was nothing to back up the claims. “Regrettably, investigations revealed that many of the allegations made to the IACHR were not reported to the relevant local authorities, and as such, there were no records to inform legal proceedings against alleged perpetrators. Notwithstanding, efforts were made to get in contact with the alleged victims – some refused to give statements, some denied such events, while others could not be found or no longer resided in Chinese Landing,” she said.
The Minister of Parliamentary Affairs and Governance, who is responsible for Guyana’s human rights reporting to international treaty bodies, said information about the deployment of Joint Patrol teams to Chinese Landing and neighbouring communities, findings from several meetings with the village council and residents, and information about the complete absence of formal reports were also provided to the IACHR, along with critical information about the consistent scientific investigations and advancements which showed improved water quality through turbidity testing.
In welcoming the IACHR’s issuance of precautionary measures, the Chinese Landing Village Council noted that the decades-old “invasion of miners on our legally titled lands” with little or no redress from government has become a grave security threat. “In recent years, this illegal incursion onto our lands has turned violent, with acts of violence and threats of violence being committed against us. At the same time, mining activities have massively expanded, threatening our environment and our health. The struggles of Chinese Landing and its people are well-documented in the local and international press,”
They maintained that the the concessions granted to Wayne Viera violate the rights of Chinese Landing residents, a position they alleged has resulted in threats and intimidation. “We are told to stay away, that it is not our land, which we know to be untrue. We feel unsafe even passing through the concessions to the other side to farm, hunt and fish and to visit our families.”
The IACHR requested that Guyana take the necessary measures to protect the rights to life and personal integrity of the members of the Indigenous Carib Community of Chinese Landing identified as beneficiaries, with a cultural, gender-based, and age-appropriate perspective to prevent threats, harassment, and other acts of violence against the beneficiaries; consult and agree upon the measures to be adopted with the beneficiaries and their representatives; and report on the actions taken to investigate the events that led to the adoption of this precautionary measure, so as to prevent such events from reoccurring.
Government notes that in the first case, the CCJ ruled in favour of the gold miner and so the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission was obliged to grant a mining permit. A second case has since been filed against the miner.