Land COI will deal with Indigenous, ancestral lands separately– Minister Harmon

GINA, Guyana, Thursday, May 4, 2017

Minister of State, Joseph Harmon, today, made it clear that the land Commission of Inquiry (COI) will not be dealing with Indigenous and ancestral land issues together, but as two separate issues.

Minister Harmon was addressing statements made by the National Toshaos Council (NTC) asking government to revoke the COI into ancestral and indigenous lands.

“The Toshaos’ statement is a matter of concern; we believe that all citizens have a right to have their issues addressed at whatever level it needs to be addressed…the president, having listened to the concerns by residents across the country regarding land, citizens in the hinterland, the communities in relation to ancestral lands, thought it best to appoint a commission to deal with these issues,” Minister Harmon emphasised.

Minister of State Joseph Harmon

The Minister of State explained that the issue of Amerindian land titling will be dealt with by the commission, and there will be no mix- up with the ancestral lands. “They will deal with ancestral lands, and they will deal with Amerindian land titling,” he said.

In March 2017, President David Granger established a Commission of Inquiry (COI) under the Commission of Inquiry Act, to examine and make recommendations to resolve all issues, and uncertainties surrounding the claims of Amerindian land titling, the individual, joint or communal ownership of lands acquired by freed Africans and any matters relating to land titling in Guyana.

Subsequently, the Terms of Reference (TOR) of the COI were published in the official gazette. The Commissioners were also appointed and are mandated to render the final report, findings and recommendations to the President on or before November 1, or any later date as may be determined by the president.

Minister Harmon explained that the COI was established based on a promise by President Granger at the NTC Conference, and Minister of Indigenous Peoples’ Affairs would have explained this issue in details to the residents and the NTC.

“In this Commission of Inquiry, they are being provided the opportunity to deal with issues in relation to Amerindian land titles, ancestral lands and any other lands in the TOR for the commission, so that in areas where you have conflict, because there is no absence of conflict in the application for land titles…and that is what the TOR deals with,” Minister Harmon further explained.

Guyana has established under the Amerindian Act of 2006, a legal framework which addresses Amerindian land rights and Amerindian communal land titling. Under the Act, many Indigenous communities have been able to acquire communal titles.

Minister Harmon made it clear that the government has no intention to dilute any aspect of the Amerindian Act, or to replace it by any intervention. He said that the government is committed to working with the Indigenous peoples to resolve the issue.

 

By: Synieka Thorne

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