Following a party meeting in Mabaruma, Region One yesterday, the People’s Progressive Party says that more than 800 Amerindians vowed to not recognize a recently established Commission of Inquiry (COI) into land titling for Amerindians and other groups.
The party says that its hinterland supporters want President David Granger to quash the COI since they believe that their case pertaining to land entitlement was unique and should not be lumped with any other group.
“The Delegates and Observers unanimously resolved not to recognize this Commission and are calling upon the President and the Government of Guyana, to rescind it immediately,” a statement from the party asserted last evening.
Further it added, “They made it clear that Amerindian entitlements to traditional land must not be and cannot be confused with the rights of any other ethnic groups. They are separate issues and must remain so.”
Leader of the party and former President Bharrat Jagdeo said that after meeting with persons yesterday and hearing their resounding denunciation of the COI, the party was compelled to issue a statement.
The statement informed that over 800 hundred Amerindians, from more than 13 villages were present at the meeting and they unanimously passed a motion at the Mabaruma Sub-Region District Conference of the PPP to condemn the COI.
According to the statement the villagers are now joining with the PPP, the National Toshaos Council (NTC), the Amerindian Peoples Association (APA), the Guyanese Organisation of Indigenous Peoples, The Amerindian Action Movement, the South Central Peoples Development Association, and the National Amerindian Development Foundation, in their reproach of the establishment of the Lands Commission of Inquiry.
“The Delegates and Observers at this conference view the establishment of this COI as an expression of gross disrespect to the Amerindian People of Guyana and indeed, Indigenous people everywhere. They view this initiative as a vulgar and divisive device to distort our history, deny Amerindians their rightful place as the first people of this land and to deprive them of their ancestral legal entitlements to traditional lands recognized long before independence and which successive PPP Governments committed billions of dollars towards ensuring that land titles were issued to the Amerindians for these lands,” the statement read.
In response to similar statements by the National Toshaos Council earlier this month, President Granger had dismissed the contentions on the grounds that he was working with recommendations from consultations. He said that not only were there consultations but also recommendations which he used in selecting members of the commission. Granger also made the distinction that while there is one Commission of Inquiry into land rights, it will look at the issues of land pertaining to African Guyanese and Amerindian Guyanese, separately.
“The proposal to establish a body was announced by me at the National Toshaos Conference last year…,” the President said in response to the NTC’s claims. “I certainly did not pick Mr. David James’s name (for the Commission of Inquiry) out of a hat. A recommendation had to be made to me.”
The commission is chaired by Reverend George Chuck-a-Sang, and its other members are David James, Carol Khan-James, Professor Rudolph James, Lennox Caleb, Berlinda Persaud and Paulette Henry.
On March 10 this year, when Granger appointed six of the seven members of the commission, he had said that it would be tasked with examining and making recommendations to resolve all the issues and uncertainties surrounding the individual, joint or communal ownership of land acquired by freed Africans; claims of Amerindian land titling; and other matters relative to land titling.