Amerindian leaders from across Guyana have gathered for the five-day National Toshaos Conference. Stabroek News spoke with several of them on their expectations of the conference, which is being held under the theme ‘Consolidating and expanding frontiers for Amerindian development.’
Councillor of Haimacabra, in Region One, Alonso Cornelius hopes to have a successful conference. He noted that the proposal put forward by the village in the past was successful, and now for the community development project they will be proposing a walkway to help families gain better access to the school and health centre. Currently, some of the families have to walk through a swamp, he said.
Senior Councillor of Kaicumbay, in Region Nine, Brian Vincent said that he hopes to discuss “lots of things.” He said that the rainy season is causing floods and they need a boat and engine for transportation.
According to Senior Councillor of Kwatamang, in Region Nine, Jordan Joseph, since the last meeting, they were told about the Norway money and he had expected that they would have received the money by now. “The part that hinders Norway money from coming to this country is people having different opinions,” he said. Joseph said that there are people who would say negative things about the government “but I support government 100%.”
Councillor of Fly Hill, in Region Nine, Evril Charles wants to discuss issues related to education, since children from his community have to walk seven miles to school at Yupukari everyday and this poses problems for them. In addition, he said, villagers have to walk the same distance to access the health centre. There is also no communication system in the village, he said and “this is very bad for us.”
Toshao of Jawalla, in Region Seven, Lita John said that she wants to discuss the land problem her community is experiencing. She said that the community has only been able to get a portion to their traditional land. The Guyana Geology and Mines Commission has given permission to miners to mine on the community’s traditional land without consulting the village council and “that is not right,” she
said. She said that with regards to demarcation, the officials dealing with this in Georgetown do not know the land. “Is the wrong information the computer get and this is what they are working with,” she said, while urging that the villagers be allowed to do the demarcation.
For Toshao of Akawini in Region One, David Wilson, there are a lot of issues to discuss, including pensioners and education. He explained that in his community there are a lot of school drop-outs because of the remoteness of the area. He said that they wanted to see if they can get a secondary class in Akawini. In addition, he said, they need trained teachers since most of the teachers there are untrained. Pensioners also have to be brought out for long distances just for their pensions, he noted.
Toshao of Annai, in Region Nine, Michael Williams said that he wants to know why the World Bank is not releasing the funds that are due to Guyana. “This has to be something and we want to find out why,” he said.
Toshao of Barima/Koriabo, in Region One, Edward Persaud said that in his community development plan, the have made a proposal for a tractor for their logging activities. He said that the tractor is most important and smaller things like chain-saws they can get on their own. He said that he also hopes to discuss farming issues as well as health and education. He said also that trained teachers are needed in his community. The community is 130 miles from Maburama, he noted. He also said that the health worker has informed the village that the Ministry of Health has said that she must go for training every week and the community has to stand part of the expenses. But it is expensive and he does not know how the village can afford this.
Toshao of Arau, in Region Seven, Devroy Thomas wants to raise the issue of his community’s land again. He said that the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission have changed their maps, which do not reflect the description in the land title certificate. It is a big problem because the titles were given to the village as absolute grants,
he said. “We are being robbed by this government agency that is giving out lots of title for mining,” said Thomas. He said that the GGMC had granted mining blocks around the village and now even on the titled land. He said that a company seeking uranium was one of these. He said that he had written to President Bharrat Jagdeo asking for his intervention but received no response. “I am hoping to get the response in the conference, if he can,” said Thomas.