Protection of Indigenous land rights a priority

─ Min. Allicock tells NTC

DPI, Guyana, Monday, October 7, 2019

Minister of Indigenous Peoples’ Affairs, Hon. Sydney Allicock has reiterated the Coalition Government’s commitment to ensuring your Indigenous land and other rights are protected.

He addressed the opening of the 13th National Toshaos Council (NTC) conference at the Arthur Chung Conference Center (ACCC).

During his address, he noted that the administration provided a plot of land to the NTC to construct a Secretariat to conduct its affairs. He also reminded that His Excellency, President David Granger promised a larger plot of land for the establishment of a complex that will include dormitories to accommodate Toshaos, conference rooms and other facilities.

“You have land available for your Secretariat. It is now time to start building and preparing to lead your people into the good life,” Minister Allicock charged the NTC.

He added that to address land tenure in the hinterland, Norway committed another $10.4Billion (US$50M) in climate funds to Guyana. The Amerindian Land Titling project has also been extended to December 2021. Land titles will soon be granted to Parabara, Region 9, Rockstone, Region 10 and Tasserene and Kangaruma, Region 7, while extensions will be granted to existing communities in Mainstay/Whyaka, Mashabo and Capoey in Region 2.

Additionally, the ministry is working on establishing a unit to address the many hinterland issues that exist with communities.

Minister Allicock stated that consultations are ongoing for the revision of the Amerindian Act of 2006, to strengthen it to address the critical needs of the Indigenous peoples and impact positively on their right to make and execute decisions for village development.

He also highlighted the need for villages to develop their Village Improvement Plans (VIPs).

“Leaders should be exploring all possible sources of funding. You should also consider cottage industries as potential VIPs and ensure that your village is involved. People will be keener in making sure that the VIP works if they are involved and if they are aware of the benefits that they will enjoy. Seek funding also for research and development of traditional products such as medicinal properties from the forest. Organise yourselves and build partnerships that will propel your village development. Help Guyana to create its own model… the Guyanese model.”

The Indigenous Affairs Minister urged the leaders to use the opportunity to review the progress that has been made over the past four years. While there is still much to be done, the ministry is proud of its accomplishments in sport, education, health and other sectors.

In anticipation of the opportunities for training, learning, and earning with oil production, he encouraged the NTC to be innovative and forward-thinking in their planning for economic development with the resources that are available.

The Indigenous Affairs Minister cautioned that the model that was used twenty years ago will not work today. He reminded of the president’s “Decade of Development – 2020-2029” plan, which includes a world-class education system, infrastructural expansion and transportation which holds tremendous benefits for the Indigenous Peoples.

“We are already building institutions to provide for education and training such as the Bina Hill Centre where students are taught various technical skills for their livelihood. There is also a feasibility study underway for similar institutions in Regions 1, 7 and 8. Development is a moving vehicle and we all should be on board,” he told the Toshaos.

The one-week NTC conference is an important forum that allows village leaders to have engagements with the president and government ministers, and officials from various government agencies.

The event is aimed at consolidating and expanding the national development and transformation processes to cater to the needs of Indigenous people. It also addresses issues such as land titles and demarcations, education, health, social services, security and infrastructure.