Arau land issues could be settled quickly

Dear Editor,

I wish to refer to an article in the Stabroek News under the caption ‘Arau wants land settled before low carbon decision –Toshao’ in its issue of Thursday, November 18, 2010.
Toshao Devroy Thomas of Arau Village in the Pakaraima Mountains, Region 7 can have his land matters quickly solved. All that he has to do is submit an application to the Minister of Amerindian Affairs for his village lands to be demarcated. When Arau Village lands are demarcated, Toshao Thomas can then submit an application for an extension to village lands which can include the land where Arau Village residents are currently located. All that the Toshao has to do is comply with government policy as regards Amerindian land extensions; this requires that a titled village first has to be demarcated before it can receive an extension of land. If Toshao Thomas does this his land problems would be over and all his village residents would become happy people because they would now have legal ownership of their lands.

Toshao Thomas claims that no one visited his village to speak about Guyana’s LCDS and as a result, village residents do not know what the LCDS is all about. I want to be fair to Toshao Thomas here. Yes, no LCDS consultation team specifically visited Arau village to hold LCDS consultations last year (2009), but LCDS consultations were held in Kamarang where many Amerindian communities sent delegations. Toshao Thomas was also present at the Kamarang consultations which had Akawaio translations. There was also the 2009 National Toshao Council (NTC) conference in Georgetown where discussions on the LCDS took place. Further, President Jagdeo spent an entire day speaking in very simple language to Amerindian Toshaos about the LCDS. It was the responsibility of Toshaos when they returned to their respective villages, to inform their village residents what the meetings which they attended were all about.

Nevertheless, I would like to assure Toshao Thomas that LCDS and Redd+Meetings will be held in Arau Village come next year, 2011. Further, LCDS consultations have never stopped, but will continue.

Toshao Thomas said that he saw in a booklet that “slash and burn” agriculture would be stopped under the LCDS. Can Toshao Thomas tell me where I can obtain a copy of that booklet? The Government of Guyana is committed to the traditional activities or practices of indigenous people in the LCDS, and will not stop them. Moreover, Guyana’s LCDS and Redd+ meetings will protect the rights of Guyana’s indigenous peoples.

In relation to mining, the information I received is that both Amerindians and non – Amerindians conduct mining activities in Arau that contribute to environmental degradation. I will investigate this matter early next year and release a report on what I have seen. But while mining and logging will continue under the LCDS, both miners and loggers will have to comply strictly with regulations in pursuit of the fight against global climate change.

Yours faithfully,
Peter Persaud

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