Last Updated on Thursday, 4 May 2017, 1:56 by Denis Chabrol
The National Toshoas Council (NTC) has called on the David Granger administration to immediately rescind the appointment of a Commission of Inquiry established to deal jointly with land issues related to Amerindians and freed African slaves in Guyana or face the consequences.
This fervent appeal was made today (May 3, 2017) by NTC Chair, Joel Fredericks, following a meeting of the NTC Executive Council.
Fredericks met with media operatives following the meeting and said government was not only violating the Amerindian Act but also the United Nation’s Conventions that speak to the treatment of indigenous peoples.
Asked about a court challenge to the Presidential COI, NTC Vice Chairman, Lennox Shuman, told reporters the body did seek legal advice on the matter but was told the president’s actions could not be challenged.
On the matter of specific concerns over the COI, Toshaos Shuman told media operatives, the potential impact of the COI and its outcome could have profound occurrences for the country as a whole and further could in fact incite racial fears.
According to Shuman, there have been moves made in the past to have the issue of Amerindian Lands be mediated by the Guyana Lands and Surveys Commission (GL&SC).
The NTC Vice Chairman was quick to point out that treatment of indigenous peoples’ lands, are catered for in the Amerindian Act.
According to Toshaos Shuman, there is concern on the part of the indigenous people that the President’s COI could very well find that both land issues be dealt with by the GL&SC.
In voicing his objection to this, Shuman disclosed that “there are forces in GL&SC who do not want to see indigenous people get anything.”
According to the Toshaos, there have been persons at the GL&SC who have stood in the way of communities still waiting to receive extensions and other types of land certificates.
According to the NTC Vice Chair, should government continue to demonstrate an unwillingness to work with the elected representative body, the administration will have to deal with the consequences of its position taken.
It was pointed out that as last resort the Amerindian people will show their dissatisfaction with the current administration come 2020 with their votes.
He said too that the NCT will be looking into seeking support of other stakeholders in the Guyana economy, such as donor partners.
He identified the Inter American Development Bank (IDB) and pointed to the fact that loans and grants to Guyana from this International Financial Institution cater in part for Amerindian Peoples and their development but these monies rarely are pumped into hinterland communities.
The NTC Vice Chairman called on the administration to adopt a new approach in dealing with Amerindian people and the issues that affect them.
He said the trend of posture adopted by successive governments is a clear indication of a non willingness to engage the Amerindian people on issues that affect them.
Shuman in his adumbrations reminded that the Amerindian vote in Guyana holds the sway of power in Guyana and in fact determines which party holds power.
It was pointed out that the NTC is apolitical in nature and as such aligns itself with political parties that align its policies with the interest of the Amerindian People.
“We have to take a more holistic view,” Shuman said.
He was adamant, “make no mistake about that, the NTC is not politically aligned or will never be,” and said if it is that the government of the day chooses …we will not dispel any party that aim to align themselves with indigenous people goals.”
It is in that vein, he disclosed if it is that the coalition A Partnership for National Unity, Alliance for Change (APNU-AFC) chooses not to revisit its approach in dealing with Amerindian peoples and their issues, “then they will feel the effects come 2020.”
Speaking to the indifference with which Amerindians are being treated in Guyana by the current administration, it was pointed out that the African Cultural Development Association (ACDA) managed to recently acquired a plot of land from government for its use while the NTC would have pleading with the administration for a plot of land to establish its secretariat ever since 2015.
Shuman was adamant government “has to take corrective steps to address this grave wrong that they would have done us.”