Indigenous development progressing – Min. Allicock
DPI, Guyana, Sunday, August 11, 2019
The gains made by the Indigenous Peoples under the Coalition Government were highlighted Minister of Indigenous Peoples’ Affairs, Hon. Sydney Allicock.
He was at the time being interviewed on the radio programme ‘INSIGHT’ on Voice of Guyana (VOG).
The minister said local democracy plays a major part in this government’s agenda and specifically focusing on Indigenous Peoples. He noted that the National Toshao’s Council was opened to allow for participation by various bodies such as non-governmental organisations (NGO), the media and other interested individuals,
“… for more transparency and a bigger circle of guidance,” the minister explained.
There is also His Excellency, President David Granger’s 10-point point plan for Indigenous development which is currently being executed and results are being derived.
Through this plan, the Minister Allicock said, there are projects geared at improving village economies, as well as building the capacity of the individuals who live in these communities. He highlighted the Hinterland Employment Youth Service (HEYS) which has made a significant impact on the lives of young people in the various villages across Guyana. The programme gives them the foundation for economic development, social security and leadership roles.
“We have seen a lot of young people especially those single parents, they have really come up to the challenge, and they are there helping with their village economies, even helping with creating more job opportunities for family members and beyond,” Minister Allicock said.
Minister Allicock also said with ‘first oil’ expected in early 2020, and the subsequent revenues that will accrue, the government is focusing on appropriate education to be prepared to utilise the revenue in a way that benefits the country. To this effect, the Ministry of Indigenous Peoples’ Affairs is currently establishing a Green Enterprise Centre in Annai, Bina Hill. This institution will offer courses in enterprise design and start-up, management, sustainability, and leadership, as well as access to business support services. The idea, he said, is to have youths equipped with the necessary knowledge and skills to seize the opportunities as they become available.
Feasibility studies are ongoing for the establishment of similar centres in Regions 1, 7 and 8.
Other projects listed include the Lapidary in Region 8, that will see the processing of the semi-precious stones; the revamping of the coffee industry in Region 1 and the Crab and Fish processing plant in Smith Creek.
The minister noted too that on assuming office, it was quickly realised that there was a need to unite the indigenous communities “because either through political or religious or other beliefs we’ve had that division.” The minister also noted that many Indigenous communities are developing as leaders take up their responsibilities.
One of the keys to this success is the Village Improvement Plan though which the Village Council craft plans that utilise the natural and human resources available to better develop their respective communities.
An instrumental linked to the success of the VIPs, Minister Allicock pointed out, is the establishment of several community radio stations that help to bring important information to them. This, he pointed out, assisted in the decision-making of the village leaders.
Another major issue that this government is tackling is that of land.
“We’ve had the Amerindian Land Titling which began in 2013. I think it was a very ambitious project to be completed within three years. 68 villages for extensions and boundaries surveys to completed within three years if you want to do it well.” The minister noted that there were challenges “we have found some communities claiming that the boundaries were not done properly, some were not completed and we have to go and do that all over again.”
There were also issues with the Free Prior and Informed Consent aspect of the project.
“We’ve had the experience of going into communities time and again and when we think we’re are about to move ahead with this plan, the villagers indicate they are not yet ready,” he explained.
The first phase of this Land Titling Project ended in 2016, however, an extension brought it to 2018 and now there is another extension which ends in December of 2021.
The ministry is now in the process of creating a unit within the Ministry of Indigenous People’s Affairs to focus on Indigenous land issues that may arise from time to time.