What the Toshaos say about…Their communities and important issues

As Toshaos from the different Amerindian Communities gathered at the International Conference Centre for the7th annual National Toshaos Council meeting last week, we asked the leaders what they expected to get out of the meeting and what were some of the issues they wished to highlight. Their views follow:

Interviews and photos by Tifaine Rutherford

 20131028richardRichard Cornelius, Secretary of National Toshaos Council- `All Amerindian village leaders are here to look at the general welfare of the people and importantly their land issues, there are a combination of issues. The Amerindian Act needs to be more amended. Right now the NTC executive body is pursuing how we can educate all village councils more in understanding the Amerindian Act. There are certain large issues that over time I think will change. I look at things from a more neutral perspective.’







20131028litaLita John, Jawala- `It is the National Toshaos Meeting, so everybody has to take part as a toshao, but when you look at it, when we (Region 7) raise our hands, we are not given adequate time to air our issues. They are ignoring you and telling you to just make a short speech. The other regions who are praising the Government they are given a lot of time. The next time when they have a meeting like this, the chairman must be one of the toshaos, not minister or permanent secretary. This belongs to the toshaos, this is not their conference. We have the right to chair the meeting and to air our concerns. They are not coming to meet us, they do not know our problems. Our water is really polluted right now and I don’t know what GGMC is doing. They have an office at Imbaimadai and they come down and give cease work orders to a couple of dredges and go back. That means they are collecting something from them, and that is not right. That is the only source of drinking water, we don’t have wells or anything to store our water.’







 20131028jeffreyJeffrey Albert, Tiger Pond- `We are here to try to solve the different problems Amerindians face with the land issues and I think we will overcome these issues, not right away but in time to come.’







20131028hilleryHillery Wong, Siparuta- `In my community we are facing a lot of problems. Since last year the 9th of October, the lightning struck the water system, and up to this day we cannot get a proper water system. Secondly, our electrical power was down, but two days ago we received the transformers. Out of this meeting we are trying to get as much as we could with our representation. We are trying to at least get as much as we could.’






20131028patrickPatrick Dorrick, Kamarang –`I am representing my community and right now we have a land issue for the past 17 years and we are appealing to the Government to see us now. Not only the Upper Mazaruni, we are now expecting that the Government will address these issues and tackle them seriously. I want to highlight that we don’t really have an issue, but there are drugs in the community and we want to be serious about it because it is damaging our children and it will damage our generation to come. We need tight security to be out there.’







20131028johnnyJohnny Duncan, Awarewanau- `I am from Deep South and I am representing the people of Awarewanau. I don’t really understand the protest (which occurred during two days of the conference) and what is really going on here. I think there are two or three from my village here. I think the Government of Guyana is trying its best to fix things in our village.’







20131028dominiqueDominque Stephens, Meriwau- `I hope to get a lot of problems resolved that my community is facing, especially the land issues. We are waiting to hear what they will tell us what about the land issue.’







20131028marioMario Hastings, Kako- `For today we had interaction with the President and his Government and the various villages from different regions raised their concerns and they were given responses. My observation is that some toshaos who are supposed to represent their people are not really standing up. Why I say this is because we have a protest going on right now in support of the toshaos but so far we haven’t heard anything much from their toshaos who are representing them. Also a statement was made by the chairman of the NTC against the same protest here and I don’t know how he can make a statement like that. That is not a fair statement.’







20131028alvinAlvin Joseph, Issano- `I am in support with what Mr. (Dominique) Stephens (from Meriwau) has said. We do have a lot of problems and we are just waiting to hear what the Government will tell us at the end of the meeting on Friday.’







20131028harrisHarris Aaron, Wayaloyeng- `The meeting was good and everything is everything. We were able to air most of our issues so hopefully we get some results soon.’

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