Will other miners who were forced to give up claims in areas that became Amerindian lands now take legal action?

Dear Editor,
There is nothing that unifies the Amerindian peoples more than their land demarcation and ownership, and the recent landmark decision over ownership of village lands in Isseneru Village in which a miner was granted rights on what became village land has the potential to completely unravel the close relationship which the government has with Amerindian communities.

The unanimous opinion among Amerindians is that they feel completely betrayed by the government and are now wondering what rights and ownership they actually have over their lands. Further, the question on their lips is what else was promised to them which is not true?

Through the centuries Amerindians have been used and abused by those that they put their trust in, including, unfortunately, some of their very own. This most recent exposure of the frailty and porousness of the Amerindian Act is but another example of such abuse of trust.

At the moment it is only Isseneru Village that has been affected by this decision. But surely there are other villages which have similar issues. What happens to them? Other questions will also arise. What happens to those village lands that fall within forestry permits, whose acreage is much larger than mining? Suppose there was a forestry permit over a large area and a title was given to an Amerindian community after the forestry permit. Can this logging company now take the Amerindian community to court for right of access to their lands for logging?

What about those miners who were forced to give up claims/blocks in areas that were later issued as titled Amerindian lands? Can they now take legal action against the village council for unlawful removal? Or will the GGMC/government now have to offer restitution to these miners?

Spare a thought for those communities such as Parabara in the Rupununi and Tasserine in the Mazaruni which have been asking for land titles and actually promised same by the government upon conclusion of the surveys. Their lands are almost totally encompassed by valid mining blocks. What happens to them?

No matter how you look at this ruling, the rights of Amerindian communities (supposed to have been enshrined in the Amerin-dian Act) have been well and truly shattered. There is little that can now be done to for them and this blame has been laid entirely at the foot of the government which was supposed to protect them.

There are also political implications as a consequence of this ruling. Over the past two elections the government has been cosy with Amerindians to make up for the shortfall within their own electoral base, and this has paid dividends for them. But this relationship has been tenuous at best and there has always been suspicion that the relationship has been mostly for political gain rather than a genuine desire to offer betterment.

Many political analysts have pointed out that Amerindians now hold the crucial sway in national elections and whoever manages to woo them will inevitably win the elections.

Amerindians presently feel as though they have been sold out and their trust betrayed. Could this translate into a turn against the government?
But can the opposition capitalize? Right now the only political directorate which has responded to the ruling has been the government which invited the Isseneru Village Council to meet the President. The opposition has not uttered one word on the ruling or offered any support to the Amerindian people. Is this an indication of indifference towards the plight of the people?

What may eventually occur is that an Amerindian leader will stir up fervour among his peoples, much like Paul Hardy did, and win this electorate and leave the other two main political parties to fight it out among their electorate. This would then leave both main political parties almost evenly balanced and a winner difficult to predict.

Whatever happens, this recent landmark decision against Isseneru Village has the potential to completely change the political landscape. Somehow there is an inkling that any thought of snap elections will be put even further onto the back burner.
Yours faithfully,
(Name and address provided)


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