Decades-old ‘Chinese Landing’ land issues to be addressed
─ govt moves to fast track Indigenous land issues
DPI, Guyana, Wednesday, April 10, 2019
The government will be moving to address the decades-old land issues in Chinese Landing, Region 1, that involves a businessman mining within the titled area and a neighbouring village encroaching beyond its boundaries.
Minister of Indigenous Peoples’ Affairs, Sydney Allicock made this disclosure during a community engagement in Moruca. Accompanying the minister was Legal Advisor, David James and representatives from the Guyana Lands and Surveys (GLSC), the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission (GGMC) and the Ministries of Social Protection and Public Security.
Toshao of ‘Chinese Landing’, Orin Fernandes explained that the village received title to its lands in 1976. In 1995, permission was given by GGMC to businessman, Wayne Vieira, to mine within the boundaries of the village titled land without the consent of the village council. Viera has a medium scale mining block. The villagers felt that this was a grave injustice and a violation of their rights.
The GGMC had issued a Cease Work Order (CWO) to Vieira, who in turn had challenged GGMC Commissioner Newell Dennison in the High Court, where he had won, and subsequently in the Court of Appeal where he lost his appeal. Vieira then took the matter to the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ), which ruled in his favour in December 2017.
However, according to the Toshao, the villages are asking for the matter to be revisited. He said a majority of the residents depend on mining for their livelihood. “They don’t do it because they want to get rich or anything, they depend on it, they have children going to school… we also assist a lot of residents in our neighbouring village also who are there working to maintain their families.”
According to the Amerindian Act of 2006, the village council has the right to give or withhold their consent to small and medium scale mining. Legal Advisor, David James believes that the matter remains unresolved since the village council’s case was not heard and the village land title was never used as evidence. “In my view, the court was not fully informed and that is why they came to that sort of ruling, which of course does not do justice to the village.”
When the matter came up for discussion during the 2018 National Toshaos Council (NTC), Minister of Natural Resources, Raphael Trotman made it clear that even though the CCJ ruled in favour of Vieira, no mining can take place in the village without the permission of the community.
“Even though it has been instructed by the CCJ not to interfere, at the end of the day mining cannot take place without the permission of the community and it is the duty of the miner to approach the community for permission and to settle appropriate terms. So that right remains. Even the CCJ cannot interfere with that right,” Minister Trotman had said.
Another issue was that the village also shares a common boundary with Koriabo village; however, Koriabo is claiming an area within Chinese Landing. The Toshao is asking for the government to intervene and meet with the residents and have the issue sorted out once and for all.
Minister Allicock said that he is aware of the issue and already held an engagement with the Natural Recourses Minister along with Dennison who will be visiting the area. He said that it is important to hear from both sides.
“We want to hear from them too so that we can have a better position on how we move forward. This is not yesterday story it’s over 20 years and we definitely need to bring some order as it relates to our boundaries and how we should proceed with the businessman,” Minister Allicock emphasised.
The parties involved will agree on a date when the ministers along with the GGMC and other agencies will visit the area to address the issue.
Images: Anil Seelall.