Government issuing temporary halt to mining in Chinese Landing – Plans for interventions continue directly with the Village Council
In response to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights’ precautionary measures issued to Guyana on July 21, 2023, the Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs and Governance hereby informs the public that the Government of Guyana has taken a decision to stop all mining in Chinese Landing temporarily to allow for a more conducive environment to address the concerns of the community and all concerned.
This comes in response to the claims contained in the IACHR resolution including that community members “felt unsafe even passing through the concessions to the other side to farm, hunt and fish, and to visit our families”. This concern was also reiterated in a correspondence to Minister Teixeira dated July 29, 2023 in which Toshao Orin Fernandes stated that steps which require immediate attention included “mining activity must stop.” This decision is as a direct result of the ongoing communication between the Government of Guyana through the Minister of Parliamentary Affairs and Governance and the Chinese Landing Village Council through Toshao Fernandes.
It should be noted that an initial request for the planned fact-finding mission to be accommodated was sent to Toshao Fernandes on July 28. A response was received dated July 29 in which the Toshao explained that “while we appreciate your quick reaction and proposal…the village council requires slightly more time to confer with the village on the appropriate measures”. August 2/3 was identified by the Toshao as a more favorable time. In addition, the Toshao also highlighted four measures which in the council’s opinion required the government’s immediate intervention – among which was the halting of all mining activity. The Toshao also indicated in this correspondence that it was “not clear” what the purpose of the fact-finding mission is.
The Government of Guyana then dispatched another correspondence on July 31, 2023 to the Toshao, responding to all questions and concerns and making clear the government’s approach. It was reiterated that the fact-finding mission was being implanted to effectively implement requests from the IACHR for the government of Guyana to “report on the actions taken to investigate the events that led up to the adoption of [the] precautionary measure, so as to prevent such events from happening again”. The Toshao was reminded that the outstanding issues identified by the IACHR as prompted by the community’s May 22, 2023 submission were only seen for the first time by government when it received the IACHR resolution, and as such, those claims would need to be investigated as they include further allegations about health, environment pollution and outstanding investigations with regards to harassment, intimidation and personal integrity.
In the July 31, 2023, correspondence, the Government also indicated that it would comply with the request of the village council to stop all mining in the village. To implement this, a team from the Guyana Police Force and the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission will be deployed to put this decision into effect and to ensure that there is a peaceful cessation to all mining. As such, a request was made for the fact-finding mission to be shifted to August 5-6, 2023 to allow for the measures to be properly implemented.
The Government of Guyana expresses its appreciation for the continued communication between the Toshao, Village Council and the Government, even in the face of inevitable differences. In the space of only 5 days there have been a total of four correspondences between the parties, and the Village Council has clearly indicated its resolution to collaborate with Government in the best interest of the community of Chinese Landing.
The Government of Guyana welcomes the efforts made by the Chinese Landing Village Council and commits to continue working directly with the beneficiaries (the people of Chinese Landing) and their elected representatives (Toshao Orin Fernandes and the Village Council).
It is on these grounds that the Government finds the statements made by the Amerindian Peoples Association (APA) to be most disingenuous and tantamount to fueling rivalry and creating an unnecessarily divisive environment. The APA statement which is published in the August 2 edition of the Stabroek Newspaper notes that “MPAG’s announced plan suggests that it, at best, does not understand the IACHR’s recommendations, or that, at worst, it is deliberately attempting to undermine the village’s rights”. These statements are clear indications that the APA does not respect the process laid out by the IACHR and does not wish the matters affecting the Chinese landing community to be resolved by the Government and the community.
Further, the Government of Guyana wishes to call on the Amerindian Peoples Association to play a more constructive role in the implementation of these measures.
In the interest of full disclosure and transparency, the Government of Guyana calls on the APA to share with its constituents the records of the funds it has been receiving to implement numerous projects. Interestingly, simple research will show that from 2019 to 2026 APA has been allocated a total of US$5,151,387 – in excess of 1.03 billion Guyana dollars by the Land Tenure Facility (based in Stockholm, Sweden). According to the Land Tenure Facility this project is supposed to “support the 70,000-strong indigenous population – roughly 10% of the nation – in work to protect their cultural and practical links to the land, by securing legal ownership”. (https://thetenurefacility.org/country/guyana/). Notably, of the numerous funding sources, this is the only donor which has been directly transparent about the project funds which are being made available to the APA.
It should also be noted that the stakeholders listed under this project included “the National Toshaos Council, and the Ministry of Indigenous Peoples Affairs.” However, these entities have no records of any engagements with the APA with regards to the project outline. It is also notable that in Phase 2 (2023-2026) “Securing and Enhancing Indigenous Land Tenure in Guyana” of this project, valued at the sum of 3,001,887 USD or over 600 million Guyanese Dollars, the Ministry of Amerindian Affairs and National Toshaos Council have not been listed as stakeholders – a clear indication of the APA’s unwillingness to work with Government and the National Toshaos Council. It should also be noted that Amerindian Land Titling is a process which engages the Amerindian communities and the Government of Guyana in accordance with the Amerindian Act– the APA has no authority to allocate titles to Amerindian Communities.
The PPP/C Government of Guyana receives absolutely zero financial support from any international or regional civil society body, Trust Fund, etc., in its consistent work to advance land titling, extensions, and demarcation of Amerindian lands. Government allocated over GY$560M in 2022 and over GY$500M in 2023 towards land titling only. This does not include the multi-billion-dollar budgets geared towards Amerindian Development, nor the carbon credit financing for Amerindian villages as part of the carbon credits partnerships.
Further, Guyanese should be reminded that it was APA that made representation to the independent ART-TREES, calling for the suspension of Guyana’s ART-TREES carbon credits. APA failed and is now attempting to appeal against the decision of ART-TREES. These very resources, which APA wants to prevent the communities from receiving, are being used to directly improve the social and economic development of Amerindian communities. In 2023 the first payment of $4.7 billion Guyanese Dollars or US$22 million is being disbursed to 241 indigenous communities. Some 220 Amerindian communities have already submitted the outlines of their Village Sustainability Plans (VSPs) as part of the process of accessing their respective allocations from the $4.6 billion (US$22 million) earned from the sale of Guyana’s carbon credits.
APA’s request for the suspension of the process would have denied much needed resources from the Amerindian communities – a grave injustice to the indigenous peoples of Guyana. Thankfully for our Amerindian brothers and sisters, the ART-TREES independent grievance process verified that the APA made false claims that they had not been appropriately consulted. It was revealed that the APA’s complaint had been made without the knowledge or support of any Amerindian communities in Guyana, and even without the knowledge of any of their elected representatives who form the National Toshaos Council – the only official representative organisation of the Amerindian communities across the entirety of Guyana comprised of leaders elected by the Amerindian communities, unlike those of the APA.
It is unfortunate that the APA continues to misrepresent the needs of Amerindian communities in an effort to consistently conflagrate situations which may invite more donor attention, and consequently lead to accessing more funding.
The Government of Guyana reiterates its commitment to working with the people of Chinese Landing, who are the real beneficiaries, to ensure that the identified issues can be adequately resolved. We trust that this decision to implement a cessation on all mining is welcomed by the people of Chinese Landing as it was part and parcel of their primary requests. Further, the Government welcomes the open communication approach by Toshao Fernandes and the Chinese Landing Village Council, and looks forward to realizing the important fact-finding mission as soon as practically possible.