Ms. Melinda Janki, chief architect of the Amerindian Act of 2006, rushed to the defence of her creation in a letter to your newspaper (`Amerindians currently have fundamental rights and freedoms equally with other Guyanese’, SN Oct 29, 2013), in response to my observations of the status quo. In so doing, she proved my point: Guyana’s first peoples still have no equality or right to self determination.
People like Ms. Janki will never get it, but I will say it again: Guyana’s first peoples did not need recognition from the Johnny-come-lately Europeans who have been on this land exploiting the original inhabitants for some 200 years before independence. Indigenous Guyanese do not need their identity certified by the Minister of Amerindian Affairs who represents the State of Guyana, now less than 50 years old, why? Because they were here for thousands of years!
Ms. Janki’s laws and the regime that now uses them as tools of oppression and control, continue to give lip service to democratic principles including equality; while doing the contrary. As we say: actions speak louder than words.
Editor, the proof of the pudding is in the eating. One has to look at the situation to see the reality; we cannot posit equality based on legal abstractions, government promises and Ms. Janki’s claims.
Look at how the government treats Indigenous Guyanese. In 2010, the Jagdeo regime, at the National Toshao’s Council meeting, handed the Toshaos a huge document and told them, they had only minutes to sign it. The document was the Low Carbon Development Strategy Resolu-tion.
The Toshaos had no knowledge of the document’s contents, no chance to study it and most certainly, no input. Apparently, free, prior and informed consent does not apply to Amerindians.
Ms. Janki acknowledges that Indigenous Guyanese have no right to minerals on their titled lands. But there is more. According to the Act, 20% of royalties from mining on Amerindian lands have to be used for development of the communities.
By the way: the Minister decides how this money is spent; not the communities! This money had been building up since 2006 yet, up to recent times the government could give no proper account of where the money was or how much was accrued.
This government’s actions clearly demonstrate the patronising, condescending contempt that characterises their relations with Indigenous Guyanese. Meanwhile, Guyana’s first peoples continue to suffer under the legalised yoke. The Minister can decide who is “an Amerindian.” The government says how much and on what, Amerindians’ own money is spent in their communities.
The ruling regime now determines who it recognises as Amerindian representatives and which groups can be ignored. They now get to chair meetings of the National Toshao’s Council because apparently, the Toshaos are not smart enough to chair their own meeting.
In the hinterland, mining operations continue upstream, in rivers used by Amerindians for domestic needs.
Logging concessions occupy more land than Guyana’s first peoples. Indigenous Guyanese continue to be exploited by the business class to satisfy their labour and sexual needs. The list goes on.
Ms. Janki and those of her ilk can continue to spout legal abstractions and paint flowery pictures to disguise the plight of Indigenous Guyanese, for the benefit of the urban and international audiences. But as we say: Who feels it, knows.