People’s National Congress Executive Member and Former Member of Parliament Mervyn Williams today urged Indigenous leaders who are in Georgetown for the National Toshaos Conference to reject what he sees as the government’s apparent attempt to set the agenda for the conference and ultimately determine how the villages should be managed.
At an Opposition press conference this morning, Mr. Williams said the government has been treating the Indigenous community with contempt, and while it is boasting about dolling out millions in those communities, there has been little to no progress.
“Indigenous leaders must therefore see this conference as one where they can take and draw the line in the sand for their right to self-determination. The APNU+AFC and ready to support your struggle against the PPP domination and control of your calls for equality of treatment,” Williams said.
This year’s conference which opened on Monday saw promises of more development for hinterland regions being made by President Ali. The core issue of land titling and demarcation also dominated the opening of the conference with a pledge being made to settle the issue once and for all.
But Williams does not believe the government means well to the villages.
“It is the level of disrespect that is being shown to the indigenous peoples, particularly in the indigenous elected leaders by the government is of very grave concern. So the leaders, without regard to political affiliation, generally feel that they are being disrespected,” Williams opined.
It was explained that even before the Toshaos Conference, village leaders have been making their issues known about their communities.
“If for example, the Ministry of Home Affairs decides to talk about what’s happening on the coast and how they are doing a brilliant job with fighting crime, the indigenous people will take the opportunity to discuss what is happening in Chinese landing, how the village is overrun by persons who are armed with high-powered rifles and they are denying them access to their very own lands. So yes they are going to get these issues in,” Williams foresee.
The Opposition has said that it wants to see the government accelerate development in Indigenous communities. The Government has indicated that it intends to continue with a number of development programmes in the indigenous communities.