The Amerindian Peoples’ Association (APA) is refuting claims published in the Guyana Chronicle criticising its work and false assertions made about its vice president Tony James, believing that it is intended to drive fear into the communities and isolate them.
In a press release, the APA said letters containing false accusations written by Noel Antone (June 6), Patrick Austin (June 9) and Peter Persaud (June 12) have been published by the paper yet none of the letters or press releases it submitted in response have been published.
While the APA will not “repeat the lies of the letter writers” and will address the claims made in Persaud’s letter at a later date, it asserts that James has long been a defender of the rights of the indigenous peoples of Guyana and he has vowed to continue to do so “until the rights of our peoples are fully recognised and respected.”
In two of the letters mentioned above, questions have been raised about the vice president’s connection to a group calling itself the Amerindian Peoples Liberation Front. The group also has a Facebook page which boasts a number of posts referring to James.
The APA wishes to make pellucid that James is not a member of this group and neither is the association connected with it. James had also made it clear in a letter (‘Character was besmirched’) published in Thursday’s edition of this newspaper, that he has no connections to the group. It also said that if the allegations and opinions contained in the letters had been made at any other time they would have been deemed ridiculous but given the nature of its work, the APA is compelled to expose the misinformation and untruths contained therein.
The association recalls that about two years ago rumours had been pedalled about James that had resulted in threats made to his life. “The recent letters appear to be a resurgence of such actions and the security of his persons must be taken seriously, especially [since] Mr James has been even more in the forefront of the struggles for the recognition of the land rights of the people of the Deep South Rupununi,” the press release said.
As a representative of the APA, James has criticised the inadequacy of the Amerindian Act in protecting such rights and has sought to ensure the security of the people’s rights to their lands, territories and resources in the face of government-sanctioned mining activities and non-fulfilment of their land rights.
James is not alone in the struggles in the Deep South as evidenced by the continued action of the people in the various communities. In May, persons protested disruptive mining activities on their traditional lands at Lethem. To distort and label this protest as a move “to dismember in part the territorial integrity of our sovereign and independent state” is to tell the people of the Deep South and every indigenous community that they cannot protect their lives and livelihoods.
The APA wishes to point out that the government is a signatory to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) and therefore must honour its intentions, otherwise it could be accused of being a signatory for purposes of tokenism. At no time has the association advocated for a “state within a state”, instead, it has sought the “recognition of rights of indigenous peoples to their lands, territories and resources which they have traditionally owned, occupied, used or otherwise acquired” as stated in Article 26 of the Declaration.
Further, the APA respects Article 46 (1) which states that nothing in the Declaration may be interpreted as implying for any State, people, group or persons any right to engage in any activity or to perform any act contrary to the Charter of the United Nations or construed as authorising or encouraging any action which would dismember or impair, totally or in part, the territorial integrity or political unity of sovereign and independent states.
The association believes that a plot is afoot to infiltrate Deep South communities to sow seeds of discord among villagers to the extent that they would cease interaction with each other and with organisations looking into their interest. It believes too that the current writings and parallel actions in communities may have been designed to silence representation and dissuade persons from associating with and supporting the APA which has worked continuously over several decades to secure indigenous rights. The group urges the public and indigenous communities in particular to be vigilant as credible institutions had been used in the past to foment distrust.