Successful workshops conclude in Deep South Rupununi Villages
– Indigenous Land Issues on the front burner
The Communications component of the Amerindian Land Titling (ALT) Project on Friday wrapped up a successful week of workshops in Aishalton, Muraranau, Awaraunau and Shea Villages in deep South Rupununi, Region 9.
Scores of residents from the respective villages attended the workshops where pertinent information was shared on Demarcation and Acquiring a Certification of Title, Application for an Extension and the Grievance Redress Mechanism (GRM).
The project was executed by the Ministry of Indigenous Peoples’ Affairs in partnership with the United Nations Development Programme. The team which comprised Special Assistant to the Minister of Indigenous Peoples’ Affairs with responsibility for Community Development Martin Cheong, Communications Associate Tana Yussuff, Director of the GRM Orinthia Schmidt, Communications Officer in the Ministry Alethea Grant and driver Conrad George received positive feedback during the sessions.
Cheong said “the Communications Strategy … provides pertinent information to all the communities involved in this process; from the moment they apply for an absolute grant to the time they receive a certificate of title; from the time they apply for an extension until they have a certificate of title for the extension, and it is going well so far”.
When the ALT Project commenced in 2013, some sixty-eight villages were earmarked and Chung noted it remains crucial for Indigenous livelihood. He described the project as ambitious since several villages that were included had outstanding issues to be addressed prior to 2013. “Especially for the communities in the Upper Mazaruni, they have taken the decision not to discuss demarcation or anything related to their lands until the court case that has been ongoing on for nearly 21 years is ruled on. That took away actually achieving the objectives form this project”.
Moving forward Cheong said, “we have tweaked it over time and we have excluded them from the last phase of this project and have now included six other communities particularly from the Rupununi area that have interest in extension.”
Communications Associate Tana Yussuff during her presentation told scores of residents in Aishalton that “Indigenous Communities are the major stakeholders of this project so we must hold workshops like this in all sixty-eight villages so that you can understand the process and all the issues and concerns you can raise at this meeting too”.
Following the conclusion of the workshop Immaculata Casimero who is an active member of the village said “it’s something good; we are being educated on what is expected of us as community members…we have one goal and it is to ensure we have rights to our lands and full legal ownership to our lands so with this, it’s a way to move forward…so I think it is very good.”.
Another resident Gavin Winter said “it was informational. We heard what is required of communities to apply for title or extension…I have learnt about the grievance mechanism which is the first time that we are hearing about this. So, this is a forum where we can bring our problems or issues which can help us get our extension”.
Keith James another resident said “it’s important to me and everyone who is living in Aishalton. I learnt a lot …. we need to be educated on this matter because we will understand more about it”.
Elizabeth Andrey said, “Yes we will benefit from it… I’m happy that my mother is still alive and I’m sure, she would feel much happier to hear that we get through with our land extension so what was done here today is very interesting and it opened our minds.”
Sixty six year old Bernard Ritchie, who has been actively involved in Shea’s Village lands said “the most important is that we are here together to air our views at this important meeting concerning our lands and I think it is very important for our young people who are now coming behind, they are the ones to say yea so that we would keep our lands as how it is”.
Land Ownership for the Indigenous Peoples remains the primary focus of the Ministry of Indigenous Peoples’ Affairs and Cheong reminded that “if you have followed the manifesto of the APNU/AFC Coalition Government one of the things we had promised is that we would deal with Indigenous land issues in a very definitive way. His Excellency President David Granger wishes to see all these communities land issues addressed comprehensively. Our Vice-President and Minister of Indigenous Peoples’ Affairs who himself is from Suruma also understands the importance of land to Indigenous communities”.
Additionally, a technical team will be returning to the Region in the coming weeks to conduct an investigation visit in villages that requested extensions.