The Wapishana people of South Rupununi, Region Nine recently signed terms of reference (TOR) with the Government of Guyana, to address serious issues affecting them, GINA said yesterday.
The TOR followed the Wapishana people writing to President David Granger to have discussions on matters related to land traditionally occupied and utilised by their ancestors.
Vice President and Minister of Indigenous Peoples’ Affairs, Sydney Allicock led the Government team to the South Rupununi recently. GINA said that he was accompanied by Mervyn Williams, Advisor to the Ministry of Indigenous Peoples’ Affairs; David James, Special Assistant and Legal Advisor to the Ministry; Enrique Muniz, Head of the Amerindian land titling project and Richard Van West-Charles, Chief Executive Officer of the Guyana Water Incorporated (GWI).
GINA said that the Government team engaged the representative leadership of the South Rupununi District Council. The Wapishana people were represented by a number of toshaos, deputy toshaos and senior councillors. Chief among them were Nicholas Fredericks, toshao of Shulinab. Also present was an attorney-at-law from New Zealand, who specialises in indigenous rights issues, GINA disclosed.
After two days of deliberations, the two sides agreed on a set of terms to guide the official consultations, and the TOR was signed in the village of Potarinau.
The question of land, rights to land, mining and economic activity versus conservation and environmental protection were discussed.
After the signing, Fredericks said that for many years attempts were made to formally engage government in these talks, but very little attention was paid to the appeals of the Wapishana people.
Allicock told GINA that the TOR is one which the Ministry will be guided by in its quest to support the development of the Indigenous peoples.
Allicock took the opportunity to emphasise that land is an important issue, and that attention must be paid to important details.
GINA added that the Ministry and the United Nations Development Fund (UNDP) recently concluded discussions within the communities of Baramita and Santa Rosa, Region One; Orealla, Region Six; Paramakatoi and Kato, Region Eight, Parabara and Shulinab, Region Nine, and Rockstone, Region Ten on the creation of a handbook titled, ‘Understanding Amerindian Rights and the Land Titling Process’.