I was not the least bit surprised at the report of the Electoral Assistance Bureau with regard to the votes of the indigenous peoples at the last General Election. I can tell you that from my interaction with indigenous peoples from various regions, that it is true our peoples were the recipients of gifts, yes many gifts, but in the gift sets were also “misinformation, slander and scare tactics“ that the EAB has so made clear. It was appalling to realize that one major party would denigrate others to such great levels to try to win votes. A tip of the iceberg I can give you is where one community that had been trying for a long time to have the army removed from their community was told by this party that the other party would never have the soldiers removed since the other party were of the army.
Again, as the EAB has posited that because indigenous communities “do not readily have access to information“ they are manipulated to believe whatever the PPP/C has been telling them all along. Other groups that try to educate or inform indigenous peoples are branded as opposition, anti-development and many other names, and our peoples are chastised for listening to, participating and associating with such groups. I can also tell you that a lot of indigenous peoples did not get to vote because they did not have birth certificates in order to be registered in the first place.
Furthermore Editor, it is the season of the elections for Toshaos and village councils. For quite some time now, our peoples have experienced the government’s interference and involvement in the nominations for and elections to some of the village councils where they have been trying to get the right leader for them – either one who is a strong supporter of the party, or, one who keeps quiet and doesn’t challenge them. The Ministry of Amerindian Affairs, it is reported, has gone so far as to try and reopen nominations in some communities that have their current Toshao as the lone nominee. Nowhere in the law can it be found that there cannot be one nominee. If the people feel confident about nominating the current Toshao as the lone nominee then the decision of the people must not be questioned but respected. The government should instead focus on raising awareness of the various programmes that they are implementing in the name of climate change, low carbon and sustainable development, and use of natural resources so that our peoples can truly be partners for the benefit of the country from their own traditional lands.