Consultations on revision of Amerindian Act to continue next week

David James

Stakeholders, including organisations and individuals in Georgetown, who may want to make submissions and recommendations for the revision of the 2006 Amerindian Act, will have the opportunity to do so on May 21st and May 22nd.

David James, Special Assistant with responsibility for Legal Issues in the Ministry of Indigenous Peoples’ Affairs (MOIPA), told Stabroek News on Tuesday that Indigenous peoples’ organisations stakeholders in the natural resources sector, such as forestry and mining, are being invited to make submissions. Among them are the Guyana Gold and Diamond Miners Association and the Guyana Women Miners Organisation.

Also being invited are coastal-based Indigenous peoples organisations, including the National Toshaos Council, the Amerindian Peoples Association, the Guyana Organisation of Indigenous Peoples, and National Amerindian Development Foundation.        

The consultations will be held at Cara Lodge, Quamina Street, South Cummingsburg. They are the second in a series of countrywide consultations to be organised by the ministry. The consultations began in April in the the Moruca Sub-Region of Region One (Barima/Waini).

Individuals and groups who may wish to make submissions for the revision of the Act, James said, have the option of doing so in writing or they may be able to take part in the consultations.

Written submissions may be addressed to “Amerindian Act 2006 Revision, Ministry of Indigenous Peoples Affairs, Thomas and Quamina Streets, South Cummingsburg, Georgetown.”   

Following the consultations in Georgetown, James said, another consultation is scheduled for Mainstay in Region Two (Pomeroon/Supenaam).

The consultations, he explained, are in keeping with government’s elections campaign promises to revise the Amerindian Act. The consultations will be done in a series of regional clusters.

The first consultation, which targeted toshaos and village councillors, was held at Santa Rosa, Moruca. James said that only one of the region’s 12 communities was not represented.

“We had a good meeting. There was good response from Kwebanna, Waramuri and Santa Rosa,” he noted.

Smaller communities complained that they did not get sufficient notice and were unable to prepare adequately. James said while they asked for the ministry to revisit them, the issue of resources will determine whether it could be done. “We have all the other regions to deal with,” he noted, while adding that $25 million was budgeted for the exercise.

All communities are aware that the consultations have started, James said, “and we have made it very clear that they can also submit written submissions. They can go back to their villages and meet among themselves and decide what they could recommend.”

The ministry, he explained, prepared a schedule for the consultations but there has already been some delay because of communications issues in the Moruca sub-region.

The first round of consultations, he said, should be completed by the end of the year. “That will inform whether we would have another round starting next year.”

The next round would be follow up consultations, and for additional work in putting the recommendations together before they are sent through the normal processing leading to an amendment bill, he said.

Asked if people want the law reviewed, James said it was a campaign promise government made based on calls from advocates and individuals prior to the 2015 general elections.

“They felt that the law did not adequately include many of the recommendations that were made at the time when the Act was revised during the 2004 to 2006 period,” he said.

Government, he said, also believes that the law should be revised to reflect changes in international law and to meet the demands of the people for better protection of their rights.

The National Toshaos Council has been calling for a review, he said. “We have had discussions with them since we came into office in 2015,” he said.

In outreaches in communities, James said, people keep asking when the ministry would get the process going.

“It is something that is wanted. It is not something that is being forced on them,” he added.

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