Technical Team to immediately address land issue between St. Ignatius and Moco Moco Villages

Special Assistant on Legal Affairs to the Minister of Indigenous Peoples’ Affairs David James will be leading an investigative team in the coming days into St. Ignatius and Moco Moco Villages, Region 9 to address the land issue between the two neighbours.

Both villages between 2004 and 2007 would have applied for an extension for the same portion of land referred to as the Mocco Moco Horse Shoe to Matapee Creek.

The issue was brought to the fore, during recent discussions between a Land Titling Team and the St. Ignatius Village Council. Residents of the village were promised that immediate steps will be taken to have the matter addressed amicably.

The Land Titling Team which was led by Special Assistant to the Minister of Indigenous Peoples’ Affairs with responsibility for Projects and Community Development Martin Cheong indicated that “we have dealt extensively with the Moco Moco extension and now we are made to understand that St. Ignatius also has an interest in that particular piece of land. So, this has to be dealt with. The ALT investigation team will be coming to meet with all the communities before the end of the month and that issue will come up. Therefore, the leadership of both communities will have representation at this meeting along with all the other agencies that helped with this project”.

According to Cheong, in the recent past, villages that are in proximity to each other and who would have indicated an interest in acquiring an extension would “come up with a Memorandum of Understanding where they can share the land so that both communities can benefit. We hope that we can come up with a very amicable conclusion to this whole issue of the competition for land”.

Meanwhile, in 2017, the Grievance Redress Mechanism (GRM) a component of the ALT Project was operationalised to adequately address land issues affecting Indigenous peoples.

The GRM is now headed by Director Orinthia Schmidt and during a recently conducted Communications Workshop held in four villages (Aishalton, Muraranau, Awaraunau and Shea) in Deep South Rupununi, Region 9, the GRM process was fully explained and embraced by the respective villages.

Schmidt indicated that she was extremely pleased with the response received since “it fostered the awareness of this mechanism, they were also told of how grievances can be reported, given the relevant contact numbers and addresses to report to, what should be included in the grievance. So, the feedback from the villagers was quite overwhelming because persons are now aware of the process.”

The Ministry which is the executing body for the ALT Project in partnership with the UNDP and other key stakeholders has been actively engaging and working with villages to address their issues since land ownership is paramount to a sustained livelihood for the Indigenous peoples.

This was also reiterated by Cheong who noted that “the Ministry has a mandate and we are working diligently in this last phase of the project to ensure that we do all that we can but I would also like to say that when this project comes to an end, this means that Amerindian Land Titling will come to an end”.

He said the Ministry has undertaken to “establish a structure so that when the project would have come to an end in 2021 December, that there will still be a unit in the ministry that will deal with issues that may not have been dealt with under this project and others that may arise in the future”.

Meanwhile, the investigative team travelling to Region 9 will also include ALT Technical Manager Enrique Monize and representatives from key entities inclusive of the National Toshao’s Council, the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission and the Guyana Forestry Commission.