Chenapou residents anticipate talks on revision of Amerindian Act – believes it can address their land issue

DPI Guyana, February 26, 2018

The residents of Chenapou, Region Eight (Potaro-Siparuni) believe that the proposed amendments to the Amerindian Act of 2006 can address their long-standing land issues.

Chenapou resident, Paul Benjamin said that the community eagerly awaits the consultation process regarding the amendments to the Act; since they have a number of recommendations for consideration, some of which is regarding communal lands.

The issue was raised during a recent ministerial outreach led by Minister within the Ministry of Indigenous Peoples’ Affairs, Valerie Garrido-Lowe.

Benjamin explained that when the 2006 Act was amended, the Indigenous Peoples’ recommendations was tossed in a corner. “Land is a very big issue in our community. We would be very grateful if the government can listen to us with our recommendations for the amendment. In the previous act, when we the indigenous people made recommendations, a large percentage was not taken into consideration, that is why we are facing what we are facing, today”, he pointed out.

Once these recommendations are made, he is asking for it to be placed on paper and recorded. “This is something that is affecting us today. Our land is our life. We want our traditional territory to be protected by the law. We are the ones that protect these lands. We are the ones that keep it green.”

Minister Valerie Garrido-Lowe noted that consultations on the proposed amendments to the Act will be done and, “the indigenous peoples will have the opportunity to give recommendations, as is their right”.

She reminded that there are 215 Indigenous communities which have to be consulted, noting that some of the recommendations will be similar. However, she added, “democracy will prevail throughout the process”. The minister urged the residents to meet and discuss their recommendations and be ready for the consultations when it come their way.

This year, the Ministry of Indigenous Peoples’ Affairs, in collaboration with the National Toshaos Council (NTC) and the South Rupununi District Council (SRDC) will be conducting its final rounds of consultations on the proposed amendments to the Amerindian Act of 2006.

Amendments to the Act of 2006 are expected to resolve many issues within Indigenous communities, especially those regarding land and mining.

The Amerindian Act of 2006 was intended to protect the fundamental rights and freedoms of the Indigenous peoples, including the right to life, liberty, expression, movement and the protection from slavery and forced labour, culture, and tradition.

By: Synieka Thorne

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