The National Toshaos’ Council (NTC) yesterday refuted claims made by Minister of Indigenous Peoples’ Affairs Sydney Allicock that it has stymied the Amerindian Land Titling (ALT) process.
Chairman of the NTC, Joel Fredericks along with Vice Chairman Lenox Shuman and other executives of the body yesterday hosted a press conference at their newly designated headquarters on Hadfield Street. It was at this press conference that they refuted the Minister’s claims.
“I want to clear the air on behalf of the National Toshaos’ Council; I want to make it clear to the public that the fourth Vice-President (and Minister) of Indigenous Peoples’ Affairs (MoIPA) last week made a statement where he said the NTC and other indigenous groups may have been slowing down the Amerindian Land Titling project. For the NTC that is not true, it is misleading,” Fredricks said.
“The NTC have always been supportive to the Amerindian Land Titling project because the land issue has been a longstanding issue for the indigenous peoples of this country. Under the former administration, the NTC was there supporting the project and with the new administration we continued same,” the Chairman added.
Fredericks went on to say that because the NTC had worked closely with the new government, it is troubled that the minister would make such a statement.
“Under the project there is a grievance redress programme and this team has different stakeholders who look at the issues coming out of the investigations in these villages. The NTC has members on this team and so I would like to clear it because there seems to be some misunderstanding or miscommunication with the Land COI (Commission of Inquiry) and this is where the mix-up comes,” the chairman opined.
“The NTC, we did oppose the Land COI that His Excellency established and we made clear our reasons for doing so…the grievance redress mechanism is set up under the ALT to deal with Amerindian land issues and we are in support of that. So here we have the fourth Vice President saying we stymied the process and that is not so, we want to make that clear. ” the Toshao added.
Stabroek News understands that the grievance redress mechanism’s purpose as previously outlined by Fredericks is to look at the issues coming out of the investigations and offering of recommendations in order to move forward.
Meanwhile, Shuman said government continues to show its unwillingness to address Amerindian Land Titling issues.
“If they had any interest in addressing the land issues of Indigenous Peoples we submitted our recommendations to the Land COI and there has been zero communication or follow-up to the meeting we requested. I think that right there is an unwillingness to address the land issues,” the vice chairman posited.
“We are hopeful that we get an extension to the ALT and we will do what we can to support that but on the same token if the government does not have the willingness to do it then it becomes a very difficult thing in saying that you respect Indigenous people’s rights,” he added.
In addition to refuting the claims made by Allicock, the NTC also used the opportunity to once again issue a call for President David Granger to meet with them to discuss issues they feel need to be brought to his attention.
“His Excellency in response to our letter referred us to the Minister of Indigenous Peoples’ Affairs, we met with him twice to discuss some of these concerns we want to raise with His Excellency. After that we received two correspondence one to meet with Minister of Public Security, Minister Ramjattan and within two days we received another correspondence to meet with Minister Dawn Hastings,” Fredricks explained.
“We, the NTC find it unsatisfactory. We represent the Indigenous Peoples of this country and we have that right to meet with His Excellency to discuss matters that affect the Indigenous Peoples and that is why we requested the meeting with him. Up to today we have not yet been granted that meeting. This present executive has been working with this government since 2015 and we want to discuss some issues before we leave office because we will have a new executive coming in so we can at least bring them up to date with some of these concerns of the Indigenous Peoples of Guyana. We do not want to discuss this with Ministers of the Government, we want to discuss this with His Excellency,” he added.