I simply wish to pen this letter in response to Peter Persaud’s absurd letter published in the Guyana Chronicle, of September 5, 2013 captioned ‘Mr Larson should work for the benefit of Isseneru Village.’
Firstly, Mr Persaud deems that we were ‘misled’ by the Amerindian Peoples Association (APA) because of our involvement in the picketing exercises. While the APA can speak for themselves, I take this opportunity to scold Mr Persaud for trying to insult the Village Council and the people of Isseneru for choosing to exercise their constitutional right. He instead is trying to trivialize and detract from the crucial and legitimate conflicts that abound in and around our communities regarding land and resources. Many are left in awe at the position he takes while claiming to be a representative of Amerindians.
For example, he constantly insists that “gold and other precious minerals remain the property of the state” and that we should “work within the Laws of Guyana.” He still lives in the era of freely accepting the legal fiction that the customary lands of the indigenous peoples belong to the state. He further fails to acknowledge that while there has been some measure intended to protect the traditional rights of our peoples, the existing laws do not effectively recognize indigenous peoples’ rights to lands, territories and resources.
I urge Mr Persaud to take note of the ‘Recommendations of the Permanent Forum’ that were made at the Eleventh Session of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues in May 2012. The third recommendation states the following, “Another ongoing manifestation of dispossession doctrines is the concept of extinguishment, found in the regulations, policies and court decisions in which States have purportedly ‘extinguished’ the rights of indigenous peoples to their lands, territories and resources…” Furthermore, he is asked to read and try to understand and invoke the recommendation at number four which states that “Article 26 of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, treaty body jurisprudence and case law from all major international human rights institutions confirm that indigenous peoples hold collective rights to the lands, territories and resources that they traditionally owned, occupied or otherwise used, and that respect for their customs, traditions, and land tenure systems is owed to them.
“Such rights have the same legal status as all other property rights to lands, territories and resources. States are no longer allowed to deploy a positivist legal interpretation of laws adopted during an era when doctrines such as terra nullius were the norm. International human rights law, including norms on equality and non-discrimination such as those affirmed in the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, demand that States rectify past wrongs caused by such doctrines, including the violation of the land rights of indigenous peoples through law and policy reform, restitution and other forms of redress for the violation of their land rights including those referred to in articles 27 and 28 of the United Nations Declaration.”
Editor, the Government of Guyana was represented by the Minister of Amerindian Affairs this year as usual to report on the implementation of these recommendations from 2012. Mr Persaud was included in this delegation and made a presentation in which he is quoted as saying that “Guyana’s Amerindian Act gave them rights over the resources on their lands, as well as the right to engage in extractive activities on their lands, or to allow others to do so.” He even went on to say that “so far, there had been no threats by extractive industries in Guyana since the indigenous people themselves were the managers of the resources on their lands.” Here it is evident to all, the lies and the contradictions that come from Mr Persaud. In Guyana he sings the tune that ‘minerals belong to no one but the state,’ but yet at an international forum he contradicts himself and misrepresents the rights we have. He is the one that is misled, misguided and blind!
As we have seen from the court rulings against the Village Council of Isseneru, the Amerindian Act 2006 has been rendered powerless since our customary rights are now subordinate to the rights of concessionaires as there is no due legal process for dealing with third parties occupying our lands prior to us receiving our land titles. In addition, there is also the ‘save and except clause’ that excludes concession holders from the titled area in effect giving us ‘bits and pieces.’ It is because of these conflicts, we all came out to have our voices heard and to raise awareness as well and not as a “desecration of the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples” as Mr Persaud is trying to say. If he was tuned in to international news media coverage he would have witnessed a global turn-out of indigenous peoples marching through the streets in their respective countries on the said day. Is he then trying to say that indigenous peoples throughout the globe desecrated the international day’s observance? Whose agenda exactly is Mr Persaud trying to push in belittling our movement to be heard?
As usual with his ranting on the APA, Mr Persaud has labelled them as “slave masters.” While I do not speak on behalf of the APA, I would however like to remind him that slavery was abolished long before Guyana became an independent state and therefore is not permitted in modern day Guyana. Our African brothers and sisters would not be happy with Mr Persaud and his intentions to breathe life into slavery once again, and I hope they respond to him since he had the unrealistic ambition of representing the Guyanese peoples as their president.
I will not be responding to Mr Persaud’s pointless letters after this as I have to keep focused on what I was elected to do by the people of Isseneru. I would, however, like to extend an invitation to Mr Persaud to come to our public meetings which are held regularly where we sit, listen and discuss future economic, social, and cultural development of our beautiful Isseneru, the place we call home. Village meetings are held regularly in our multi-purpose building built with the finances of the Isseneru Village Council and residents.
I therefore strongly refute Mr Persaud’s letter that village affairs are badly managed, as the Isseneru Village Council stands committed to democracy and we will continue to work towards the economic and social development of our people while he goes into oblivion.
Isseneru Village Council