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Amerindian Rights organisation sues govt for GUY$10 million for sacking almost 2,000 persons

A People’s Progressive Party Civic (PPPC)-aligned Amerindian rights organisation has clapped a GUY$10 million lawsuit on government for failing to pay almost 2,000 community workers in Amerindian communities since the government changed in May.

The Amerindian Action Movement of Guyana (TAAMOG), through its President, Peter Persaud, is taking the Minister of Indigenous People’s Affairs, Sydney Allicock and his Permanent Secretary to court for dismissing, disengaging, terminating the services of and/or rendering redundant the services of 1,972 Community Support Officers who were engaged under the Youth Entrepreneurship and Apprenticeship Programme of the then Ministry of Amerindian Affairs.

“I am informed by the said CSOs and do verily believe that to date, they have not been given a reason for their non-payment nor were they offered an opportunity to respond to any questions and/or concerns regarding the continuation of their engagement and/or employment,” he said in court documents seen by Demerara Waves Online News.

Through his battery of lawyers- Mohabir Anil Nandlall, Euclin Gomes, Sase Gunraj and Mano Narayan- the TAAMOG boss argues that the Community Services Officers’ right to work have been violated under Guyana’s Constitution, United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People, the International Covenant on Economic and Cultural Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Vienna Declaration.

The TAAMOG boss believes that the new coalition government of A Partnership for National Unity+ Alliance For Change (APNU+AFC) fired the Community Service Officers because they are Amerindians. “22.            I verily believe that the cessation of this programme was intentionally done as an act of economic and financial sabotage against the indigenous people of Guyana driven by a political, ethnic and racial motive,” he said.

He further contends that the CSOs had a legitimate expectation that their engagement and/or employment under the said programme would continue and accordingly their dismissals defeated the benefit of that legitimate expectation.

Persaud recalls that in June, 2013, the Ministry of Amerindian Affairs, Government of Guyana, launched a programme known as Youth Entrepreneurship and Apprenticeship Programme with the aim of supporting Amerindian youths within the age group of 18 to 40 years, in the various villages and communities through apprenticeship attachments that allows for capacity building, strengthening individual interests and entrepreneurial aptitudes.

The objectives of this programme were to create employment opportunities and generate income for young people in Hinterland Amerindian village; to build capacity of young individuals in the hinterlands through skills based training in various competencies relevant to community and enterprise development; to build competencies in decision-making and leadership geared towards young people’s effective participation in self and community development.

He says this initiative came out of recommendations from Toshaos, Amerindian Leaders and the National Toshaos Council.

These young people when trained in various disciplines are expected to play and indeed have played a significant role in the provision of technical expertise and apprenticeship positions in their respective offices based in the villages and sub-regions. I attach hereto as exhibit “A’” a document outlining the purpose, nature, participants and beneficiaries of the said programme.

Such similar programmes include Women of Worth (WoW), Youth Choice Initiatives, Small Business Bureau services, Peer Education, Health Initiatives, Community Liaison Officers et cetera and as far as I am aware, these programmes remain intact and persons from other ethnicities continue to benefit from these programmes.

The TAAMOG President says that upon their engagement, each Community Support Officers, hereinafter referred to as “the CSOs”, were paid a monthly stipend of  GUY$30,000 payable every three months upon submission of monthly reports validated by the Village Council and or Community Development Officer (CDO).

He says that up to April 2015, the 1,972 CSOs, in approximately 187 Amerindian villages and communities, were registered as part of the programme. He adds that CSOs contributed significantly to their household and village economies through the services they provided as well as the stipends they earned. Approximately 12,000 Amerindians in 2,000 households directly and positively affected by the YEAP.

The YEAP is similar to other programmes offered to coastal residents who are primarily of different ethnicities.

He contends that his source of employment positively impacts upon the lives of 12,000 Amerindians in 2000 households in approximately 187 communities; cumulatively, this constitutes approximately sixteen percent (16%) of the total Amerindian population in the hinterland.

Persaud says he was advised by Mr. Nigel Dharamlall, former Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Amerindian Affairs, and do verily believe that the payroll to pay 1,972 of these CSOs was already prepared for payments for the month of April, 2015.

However, after the change of Government caused by the General and Regional Elections held on May 11th, 2015, these payments were withheld and thus far no payment has been made thereof.

“These CSOs and their dependents rely upon these monies as a source of their livelihood and the cessation of this revenue flow into the village economy will have devastating consequences upon the Amerindian communities throughout the hinterland,” he says.