House to be rebuilt for Mamai, the elderly Patamuna woman thrown off land by miners

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The Minister of Natural Resources, Raphael Trotman, on Friday, gave a commitment to have a new house built for Lucille Williams, the 87-year-old Patamuna who had complained that her house and farm were destroyed by a miner.

“Mamai Lucille Williams is about 87 years old and has lived in Karisparu and on the same plot of land since she was a little girl,” the North Pakaraimas District Council (NPDC) had stated.

“Last year, in November 2018, the miner came to Mamai’s house with two (Guyana Geology and Mines Commission) officers and forcibly evicted her off of her own land.

“In fact, it was the two GGMC officers who physically took up axes and tore down her home and destroyed her belongings,” the Board had stated.

The camp that was rebuilt for Mamai after her house was destroyed [Ministry of Natural Resources photo]
The issue went all the way up to the National Toshaos Council’s recent meeting and Minister Trotman promised to visit the community and talk with Mamai and get a firsthand account of what happened.

On Friday, Trotman visited with a team and handed over $150,000 worth of groceries and other essential items and “committed fulfilling the requests by the family for a chain saw, zinc sheets and other essential building materials to facilitate the construction of a house for Ms Williams.”

“Further, Minister Trotman gave an undertaking that mining would not be allowed to interfere with Ms Lucille Williams’ peaceful enjoyment and occupation of her homestead and farm,” the Ministry of Natural Resources stated.

The Ministry said the items are expected to be delivered before November 30, 2019.

“There can never be anything that can replace the home Mamai has lost, and this is also beyond Mamai.

“This is about our rights to our lands as indigenous peoples,” the NPDC had stated.

The Council said that while it appreciated the visit of the Minister, it also wanted to see that GGMC officers who were involved in the destruction of Mamai’s house will also be dealt with accordingly.

The first time the issue was looked into by the authorities was August this year, when a team comprising representatives of the Ministry of Indigenous Peoples Affairs and the GGMC, along with the miner, went to visit Mamai, who is now living with one of her grandchildren.

Mamai and Minister of Natural Resources Raphael Trotman

The team had promised Mamai compensation. According to the Council, she asked for them to rebuild her a house on a plot of land she identified, to provide her with some foodstuff, and to clear some land for her to build a new farm.

Since that time, all that has happened is that the miner built Mamai what the Council said can only be described as a temporary camp, with a few poles and a tarpaulin.

The Council, in making its case for action against the Mines officers and the miner, quoted Section 80(1)(b)(i) of the Mining Act which states that “A licensee shall not exercise any of his rights under this Act or his licence except with the written consent of the lawful occupier thereof, in respect of any land which is the site of, or which is within two hundred metres … of any inhabited, occupied or temporarily unoccupied house or building”.

In addition, it noted that Section 80(1)(b)(ii) states that “A licensee shall not exercise any of his rights under this Act or his licence except with the written consent of the lawful occupier thereof, in respect of any land within fifty metres … of any land which has been cleared or ploughed or otherwise bona fide prepared for the growing of, or upon which there are growing, agricultural crops”.

The Council further noted that Section 111 specifically notes that “all land occupied or used by Amerindian communities and all land necessary for the quiet enjoyment by the Amerindians of any Amerindian settlements, shall be deemed to be lawfully occupied by them.”

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