Govt committed to ensuring Indigenous rights – MP Mervin Williams

─ assures Reg. 2 Indigenous communities their rights will not be trampled upon

DPI, Guyana, Monday, May 6, 2019

“The government of Guyana, your government, is very serious when it comes to Indigenous rights.”

This statement from Member of Parliament(MP), Mervin Williams, to the residents of Indigenous communities in Region 2 (Pomeroon-Supenaam), during a meeting; following two days of consultations on the 2006 Amerindian Act (No. 6).

MP Williams met with residents on Saturday, May 4 in the Mainstay community.

He began by advising the gathering that they must all be very cautious about the messages that are brought to them. “We need to interrogate those messages to determine whether they are accurate or not.”

Williams’ statement concerned allegations by the opposition that the government ceased the issuance of Presidential Grants. This, he said, could not be further from the truth.

He cited the recent example of the communities of Patarinau, Baitoon and Katuur in the South Rupunini, Region 9, that just a week ago was presented almost $3M in grants for various projects. $1M was presented to Patarinau for the establishment of a women sewing centre, and $800,000 each to Baitoon and Katuur for the upgrading of a trail and modernisation of a sport’s ground pavilion.

It was also noted earlier in March, Kopinang and Bamboo Creek in North Pakaraima, Pataro-Siparuni, Region 8 were granted $2.5M to support their green sustainable community projects.  Also, Wakapau, Kabakaburi, St. Monica and Mainstay/Whyaka in the Pomeroon-Supenaam Region (Region 2) also received a total of $6M in Presidential Grants to embark on green sustainable community projects. St. Monica received $1M for the purchase of a cassava mill and a fogging machine.

In April, over $17M in Presidential Grants was presented to Santa Rosa and its satellites communities in the Moruca sub-district, Barima-Waini Region (Region One).

On the matter at hand, the MP said “we have heard that the Amerindian Act is the best piece of legislation throughout this country”, however, the Coalition Government, during their time in opposition, listened to the Indigenous leadership and general population, who urged that certain aspects of the legislation be amended.

“They said to us that they are not disagreeing that the Amerindian Act is not a good thing, however, we have been told over and over again that there are issues that people believe are not adequately represented in the legislation” Williams noted.

This, he said, is the reason behind the ongoing consultations with Indigenous communities throughout the country, since early 2018.

Thus far, consultations have been held with communities in the Moruca sub-region, Region 1, Santa/Aratack in Region 3, St. Cuthbert’s Mission, Region 4, Maraikabai, Region 5 and Orealla/ Siparuta, South and South-Central Rupununi, Karasabai district and North Rupununi, Deep South Rupununi and South Central Rupununi.

Following the two-day consultation at Lake Mainstay, communities called for, among other things, the lessening of control and final say on matters by the subject minister, a change in the term and meaning of “resident” (as it pertains to benefits) in the Act, an Indigenous Health Institution, and  the name “Amerindian” in the Act, to be replaced with the name “Indigenous”.

Among the communities present on Saturday were; Mainstay/Whyaka, Bethany, Capoey, Akawani, Wakapoa, Mashabo, Kabakaburi, Tapacuma and St. Monica.

Consultations were also held with Indigenous NGOs, the Guyana Gold and Diamond Miners Association (GGDMA) and Guyana Women Miners Association (GWMA). Government agencies; Guyana Lands and Survey Commission (GL&SC), Guyana Forestry Commission (GFC), Guyana Geology and Mines Commission (GGMC) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

The group will revisit Moruca in a week.

Felecia Valenzuela.

Images: Karime Peters.

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