Public hearings will be held by the Lands Commission of Inquiry (CoI) beginning on Monday, August 21, according to an advertisement in yesterday’s Sunday Stabroek.
The hearings will be convened at the Guyana Lands and Surveys Commission (GL&SC) on Hadfield Street.
This commission had been a source of controversy after the National Toshaos Council (NTC) and other Amerindian groups vehemently objected to the inquiry combining Amerindian land titling matters with the claims of the descendants of freed Africans.
The controversy caused Minister of State Joseph Harmon to subsequently say that the CoI on lands will not be dealing with Indigenous and ancestral land issues together, but as two separate issues.
He was asked at a post-Cabinet press briefing to address criticisms by the NTC, which had asked that government revoke the appointment of the CoI.
“The Toshaos’ statement is a matter of concern; we believe that all citizens have a right to have their issues addressed at whatever level it needs to be addressed…the president, having listened to the concerns by residents across the country regarding land—citizens in the hinterland, the communities in relation to ancestral lands—thought it best to appoint a commission to deal with these issues,” Harmon was quoted as saying in a Government Information Agency (GINA) report.
Harmon explained that Amerindian land titling will be dealt with by the CoI and there will be no mix- up with the ancestral land claims. “They will deal with ancestral lands, and they will deal with Amerindian land titling,” he said.
The advertisement yesterday said that in the first rounds, the CoI will hear matters dealing with ancestral lands and other land issues.
Groups and individuals interested in submitting matters for consideration are invited to do so in writing along with all relevant documentation no later than August 12, 2017. The request for participation must include the name of the person(s), designations, address and contact information, written statements accompanied by supporting documentation and a brief summary of the submission.
The advertisement said that notice will be given to applicants before August 18 of the time scheduled for every presentation along with other logistical information.
The advertisement also listed locations in each of the 10 administrative regions where statements with contact information could be deposited.
It added that the first round of hearings will go until September 1 and an extension could be arranged. Consideration will also be given to holding hearings outside of Georgetown.
The commission is being chaired by Reverend George Chuck-a-Sang and includes David James, Carol Khan-James, Professor Rudolph James, Lennox Caleb, Berlinda Persaud and Paulette Henry.