The rights of those who already held land legally were expressly excluded from the Amerindian Act

Dear Editor,

I have read the opinions expressed in your newspaper and website on the decision of the Learned Justice Diana Insanally in the application by Joan A Chang, Action No. 136/M of 2011, in which I appeared on behalf of the applicant.

From the comments expressed, I am of the humble opinion that it would not be unreasonable for me to assume that the authors of such comments made no effort to ensure that they were objectively expressing their views pursuant to their fundamental right of freedom of expression afforded by Article 146 of the Constitution of Guyana.

Contrary to the pronouncement by one writer that “…the holder of the mining licence who is suing the Isseneru Amerindian Village Council…[is] unaware of the laws safeguarding Amerindian rights,” a casual glance at the affidavit in support of the applicant’s motion, would reveal that such comments are not only unjustified but lack objectivity. Para 9 of the said affidavit reads:

“That the grant of State Land No. 7865 which is registered in the name of Isseneru Amerindian Village expressly excludes all lands legally held and the FAR EYE claims were legally held by the estate of IVOR CHANG at the time that the land grant was made. Attached hereto and marked exhibit ‘G’ is a copy of the said grant.”

It was not disputed that the applicant’s interest, which was by way of a claim licence, was in existence prior to 1989 and it was not open to the state when framing the provisions of the Amerindian Act to derogate from such rights. Therefore, such rights were expressly excluded in the following terms, namely, “Save and except all lands legally held,” and such a provision conforms to the underlying intention of the rights afforded by Article 142 of the Constitution which provides protection from deprivation of property.

Article 8 of the Constitution goes further to enshrine the protection of such fundamental rights in the following words: “This Constitution is the supreme law of Guyana and, if any other law is inconsistent with it, that other law shall, to the extent of the inconsistency, be void.”

In closing, I have no intention of responding further to any comments on the said decision; however, I do look forward if given the opportunity on behalf of the applicant, to respond to any lawful challenge at the appropriate forum.

Yours faithfully,
Abiola Wong-Inniss

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