Guyana leading on world stage in development of Amerindians – Min. Sukhai

Guyana has once again shown its leadership potential as a nation protecting and preserving the rights of its Indigenous people, and partnering with them to continue their development.

The country had the opportunity to demonstrate its statesmanship at the 22nd session of the United Nations (UN) Permanent Forum on Indigenous People’s Issues, which was held at the United Nations Headquarters in New York from April 17 to 28 this year.

Minister of Amerindian Affairs, Pauline Sukhai, along with representatives of the ministry and the National Toshaos’ Council (NTC) represented Guyana at the forum, which was held under the theme “Indigenous Peoples, human health, planetary and territorial health and climate change: a rights-based approach.”

The team that represented Guyana at the 22nd session of the United Nations (UN) Permanent Forum on Indigenous People’s Issues this year

At a press conference hosted in the boardroom at the Ministry of Amerindian Affairs, Thomas and Quamina Streets on Thursday afternoon, Minister Sukhai outlined that Guyana is currently championing the rights of Indigenous people through numerous legislation, programmes, and initiatives.

Minister of Amerindian Affairs, Pauline Sukhai

“This year, we took a really fresh team, and they were exposed to the issues challenging Indigenous people across the world. And in doing so, they have discovered that Guyana is way ahead of most of what is being discussed in terms of finding solutions, engaging with the Indigenous people, and actually having in place programmes that have allowed the protection of their rights, having legislation, and also addressing the development of their village economies,” she said.

The minister pointed out that Guyana is among the first countries that produced legislation for Amerindian rights, the first to have a rights commission in the scenario, where they feel they are being discriminated against, the first to have a ministry responsible exclusively for the affairs of Indigenous people, and the first country to have 99 per cent primary healthcare in hinterland regions.

She also pointed out that Guyana is the first to have Indigenous people staffing and managing these healthcare facilities.

Guyana is also the first to have a National Toshaos’ Council, which is a legally-appointed body that provides representation for Amerindian villages, and the first to have legislation that covers land titling for Amerindians, among others.

Minister Sukhai underscored that these are important, as many other countries do not have the provisions which Guyana does for its Indigenous people.

“So, there are so many firsts for us, when we are able to speak at the UN. And sometimes, people feel that we are beating our chest. But the facts that we can present, and the programmes that we can report on, and the results that we are having… it is difficult to have that,” she expressed.

Since entering office in 2020, government has implemented measures to ensure the development of the Amerindians in Guyana continues.

To this end, a number of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) hubs have been established in Amerindian villages, the Community Service Officers programme has been reimplemented to bring employment to Amerindian residents, and multiple forms of funding are presented to Amerindian communities, in the form of cash grants and community enhancement activities.

Amerindian communities are also direct beneficiaries of the sale of Guyana’s carbon credits.

Programmes are currently underway to revive some Amerindian languages and integrate the various dialects into the education system.