NTC questions status of $10M budgeted to revise Amerindian Act 2006

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By Devina Samaroo

With the year coming to an end, the National Toshaos Council (NTC) is questioning the status of some $10M which was budgeted in 2017 to commence the process to revise the Amerindian Act 2006.

Amerindian Leaders at a press conference on Friday, December 01, 2017, expressed concerns about government’s commitment to amend the law which they claim is a poor piece of legislation.

As such, the NTC has decided to embark on its own process of consultations aimed at making a substantive proposal for the Amerindian Act 2006 to be revised.

Vice Chairman of the National Toshaos Council (NTC), Lennox Shuman

NTC Vice Chairman, Lennox Shuman told reporters that the current law infringes on several rights and traditions of the indigenous people.

“The electoral process is very prescriptive. It deals nothing with the way we would have traditionally exercised governance in our communities. If you were to respect our right to self-determination and the way we would have traditionally governed, basically it is up to us to determine how long our leaders serve, it is not up to you to tell us how long they should serve. So that in itself infringes upon our rights under the Constitution,” Shuman explained.

He pointed out also that there are sections of the Act which deals with assigning mining blocks on traditionally owned Amerindian lands.

“Why is it that you’re telling me that the government has a right to infringe upon our cultural identity by giving our land away to someone else,” the leader explained.

“We’ve developed an interim committee to coordinate the work of a larger steering committee…we’ve developed some terms of reference and we still have to do some other planning in terms of budget and how we are going to do outreaches and timeline and all these things,” he explained.

On the issue of the $10M, Shuman said the NTC is unaware if that money was spent or if it will be returned to the Consolidated Fund at the end of the year. He further expressed concerns that, if indeed the money is returned, the government has made no monetary provision for the revision of the Act in Budget 2018.

According to a press statement from the NTC, some of the groups that endorse a revision of the Act are the South Rupununi District Council (SRDC, Region 9), the Upper Mazaruni District Council (UMDC, Region 7) and the North Pakaraimas District Council (NPDC, Region 8), the Amerindian Peoples Association (APA), The Amerindian Action Movement of Guyana (TAAMOG), the National Amerindian Development Foundation (NADF) and the Guyanese Organisation of Indigenous Peoples (GOIP).

These groups were present during a meeting on Friday at the Regency Suites where they discussed the need for the Act to be revised.

“This meeting was organized in response to frustration over the lack of a formal revision process for the Amerindian Act 2006.Leaders felt there should be such a process for transparency and inclusivity and that the work should begin as soon as possible,” the statement said.

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