I refer to the open letter penned by Toshao Theophilus Fernandes of the Chinese Landing Village Council and published in the form of an advertisement on page 18 of the April 1, 2011 issue of the Stabroek News and wish to respond to the inaccuracies contained in some sections of his letter for fear that they could convey wrong impressions to an unsuspecting public.
Contrary to the impression conveyed in Toshao’s letter, the matter involving the miner and the Chinese Landing Village Council is an active one that has been engaging the attention of the Office of the Prime Minister, the Office of the Minister of Amerindian Affairs and the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission as late as February, 25, 2011. In addition, my Liaison Officer did meet with one of the senior Councillors of the Village on March 24, 2011 on the said matter.
Besides, the content of several items of correspondence between the Office of the Prime Minister and the Chinese Landing Village Council, the Ministry of Amerindian Affairs and the Village Council; the ministry and the miner can attest to the ongoing engagement on the matter.
Editor, the Ministry of Amerindian Affairs has been continually engaging and reminding village councils, particularly those in mining districts, including the Chinese Landing Village Council that the current legislation provides for village councils, through their village general meeting to approve small and medium-scale mining on their lands.
Furthermore, the Ministry of Amerindian Affairs and the Office of the Prime Minister have been supporting the regularization of Amerindians mining on their village lands and doing so within the legislative and regulatory mining framework. The Isseneru Village Council, for example, can attest to the ministry’s active support for their efforts to have their own mining activities. They are already established and the village is doing well.
In recent discussions with the Toshao of Jawalla my ministry has encouraged the Jawalla Village Council to conduct their mining activities in accordance with the requirements of the 1989 Mining Act and the 2006 Amerindian Act.
How ludicrous and contradictory for the Minister to say that “Amerindians do not having mining rights” on the one hand and to actively support their efforts to meet the legislative and other requirements for mining and to mine on the other hand.
In all the engagements between the ministry and the Chinese Landing Village Council, my ministry has respected the village council’s position of not renewing the agreement between the miner and the council. Our Prime Minister has also reiterated his respect for whatever position the council took.
My ministry was supportive of GGMC issuing a Cease Work Order stopping the miner’s operations until such time as he is able to effect an agreement with the council.
Editor, there is no record of my having made the statements attributed to me by the Toshao. And indeed the minutes of the meeting to which Toshao refers and which was attended by the Ministry’s Permanent Secretary and the Minister’s Liaison Officer, records: “The Honourable Minister expressed the wish that the matter be resolved having regard to the rights of the two Parties and to the requirements set out under existing Legislations on the issue.”
I wish to re-emphasize that the matter involving the miner and the Chinese Landing Village Council continues to engage the attention of my ministry and the Office of the Prime Minister.
Arising out of the meeting of January 28, 2011 at the OPM, the council did set out in writing some preconditions which it required that the miner meet before there are any further discussions on a new agreement. A copy of these preconditions which were sent to the Office of the Prime Minister and copied to my office was sent to the miner for his response. Again, we respect the council’s position.
I wish to conclude with the reminder that no mining permit for small or medium-scale mining on village lands can be given or renewed without the permission of the village council. This precondition for small and medium-scale mining on Amerindian titled lands is clearly set out in the 2006 Amerindian Act to which many of us contributed and which the PPP/C Government unreservedly supports.
Pauline Sukhai MP
Minister of Amerindian