Toshaos call for more land rights and less political interference

Toshaos call for more land rights and less political interference

Guyana’s Indigenous peoples are calling for more consultation with the government before decisions are taken on issues that will ultimately affect their well-being. The call came as the 11th National Toshaos Conference opened on Monday.

It was advanced by National Toshaos Council Chairman, Joel Fredericks on Monday, even as public hearings kicked off at the Land Commission of Inquiry, which seeks to address issues surrounding indigenous and ancestral lands.

The NTC had objected to the COI, saying that it is an attempt to deprive Indigenous peoples of their lands.

Fredericks opened his presentation by thanking President David Granger for granting the NTC a plot of land for the establishment of a Secretariat.

“It is a great step forward for the first peoples of Guyana and we look forward to that commitment made during our last meeting at his office for funding the construction of Secretariat,” he said ahead of the unveiling of a plan for the utilization of the plot of land located within the Sophia Exhibition Complex.

Fredericks said the NTC intends to work with the administration jointly on the project. “No government can solve all the problems […] and the government must remember that the people placed the government there to serve them.”

He reminded of the 2013 adoption of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and said the first people of this land were not benefiting from several of those rights.

Fredericks said discrimination continues to diminish his Amerindian brothers and sisters. “People are asking why they are being treated like third class citizens in a land where they are regarded as the first peoples.”

He said their right of self-determination was also being trampled upon and called for an end to political interference in the day-to-day management of indigenous villages and communities.

But of great importance to Fredericks and the NTC was the issue of consultation, particularly on issues pertaining to land.

He said the NTC was not consulted before indigenous lands were converted to townships and regarded such a move as an attack on their identity and history.

The Chairman also reminded of the situation that developed when the NTC rejected the Land COI.

“The NTC faced blows, but I encouraged us to sit down, consult and work together for the betterment of this country. As leaders, we are only here to serve for a time, but we should serve the people to leave a good legacy.”

The NTC Chairman said, “Lands are vital to the identity of Indigenous peoples.”

He told the Conference that after 51 years of independence, it is sad that Amerindians were still facing land issues.

“It was a tough year for Indigenous peoples but we must work to secure lands for indigenous peoples… denying indigenous peoples land rights and rights to self-determination is a threat to the world’s forest and biodiversity.”

The Chairman called on the President to review and revise the Amerindian Act and all other Laws that affect Indigenous People to ensure that the well-being of Amerindians are protected.




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