‘You don’t request things through the angels when God is there’ – Amerindian Chiefs
The country’s Amerindian chiefs are agitating for a meeting with President David Granger to address vexing issues, such as land titling.
Joel Fredericks, who heads the powerful National Toshaos Council (NTC), said their requests to meet with the President on various issues have been met with a referral to various subject Ministers.
But the Amerindian Chiefs are not in favour of meeting Ministers who they say are unable to give them definitive positions on various issues.
“We want to talk direct to him; we don’t want to meet with Ministers,” Fredericks told the News Room.
“We sent another correspondence letting him know we don’t want to meet with his ministers
“You don’t request things through the angels when God is there – you got to talk to God,” Fredericks declared.
The Amerindian chiefs are up in arms over claims by the Government that the NTC was stalling the Amerindian Land Titling process.
Fredericks said that was far from the truth as Amerindians are anxious for land issues to be resolved.
When the NTC goes into the fields, he said its executive members are often bombarded with questions on these issues.
He said the villagers ask: “What has happened Chief? What happened to our extension? What happened to our demarcation? What is happening to our land title?”
Fredericks said the NTC backed Amerindian Land Titling but what it was not in support of the Lands Commission of Inquiry since it did not believe a Commission that deals with other land issues could adequately deal with Amerindian land rights.
The Lands Commission was sworn in on March 10, 2017, with Reverend George Chuck-A-Sang as chairman.
Members of the Commission are David James, Carol Khan-James, Professor Rudolph James, Lennox Caleb, Berlinda Persaud and Paulette Henry.
The commissioners’ job is to examine and make recommendations to resolve all issues and uncertainties surrounding the individual, joint and communal ownership of lands acquired by freed Africans, on the claims of Amerindian Land Titling and on any other matter related to land titling.
“When we look the Commission, who really represents the Indigenous people?” Fredericks questioned.
Fredericks said Amerindian land issues have persisted for years and given the fact that there is encroachment by mining and forestry concessionaires on lands traditionally used by the Amerindians, legal documentation of the boundaries of villages was needed.
“If people have a document, they can manage their resource and control whatever activities within their village,” he stated.
“Land is our life; it’s for our future generation.”
On March 30 last, Minister of Indigenous People’s Affairs Sydney Allicock told a Parliamentary Committee that in three years his Ministry has not issued any titles to Amerindian Communities.
Since its inception in 2013, only 26% of the total Amerindian Land Titling Project has been completed, Allicock disclosed.
This prompted Opposition Members Pauline Sukhai and Yvonne Pearson to criticize the Ministry for not continuing on the progress made under the PPP administration in issuing land titles.
The Amerindian Land Titling Project was slated to end in 2016 but since the Ministry made no progress, a two-year extension was granted.
However, little progress has been made since then and the new deadline is now October 2018.
Minister Allicock said he will be making a request for another extension by writing to the Ministry of the Presidency which will then communicate with representatives in Norway.
The project is being financed from the Guyana Redd+ Investment Fund (GRIF) under the Low Carbon Development Strategy (LCDS). Up to US$10.7M was available for this project but to date, only a little over US$2M was expended.
The Minister said there are a lot of issues ranging from incorrect demarcation to political issues affecting the progress. Other issues, he said, include lack of manpower and equipment.
Minister Allicock is nonetheless hoping that four titled communities will be demarcated before the October 2018 deadline.