The annual conference of the National Toshaos Council (NTC), which gets underway tomorrow, can expect “very sober discussions” on issues affecting indigenous communities as well as training for newly-elected leaders to empower them to represent their causes, according to outgoing NTC Vice-Chairman Lenox Shuman.
President David Granger is slated to give the feature address to the toshaos and senior councillors from over 200 Indigenous communities at the opening ceremony, which will be held at the Arthur Chung Conference Centre.
Also slated to address the opening ceremony are Vice-President and Minister of Indigenous Peoples’ Affairs Sydney Allicock and Minister within the Ministry of Indigenous Peoples’ Affairs (MOIPA) Valerie Garrido-Lowe.
Elections for a new executive of the NTC will be held on Wednesday.
Asked on Friday about the conference agenda and what to expect of the conference, Shuman said the NTC does not own the agenda but at the top of the NTC’s list is a training programme to ensure the leaders are prepared to take up their offices. This will enable the toshaos to understand the 2006 Amerindian Act and other laws that may affect their communities. For the first time, training has been included on the agenda, he said.
Discussions on various issues, including land titles, he said, will be “very sober” as the leaders strategise on the way forward in an environment in which the outgoing executive failed to achieve meeting with policy and decision-makers, which would have affected their own communities’ development agendas.
Though the NTC would have been actively involved in the planning of the agenda, he said, the MOIPA has taken over the chairmanship of the opening ceremony. “The NTC would not be chairing the opening ceremony of its own conference,” he said, as the ministry has insisted on putting one of its officials to chair the session.
Generally, the ministry has approved most of the agenda items put forward by the NTC, including the training sessions.
Of the five-day event, which is being funded by government, Shuman said, “We could expect politicians vying for the attention of the leaders. The President wants to host them on Monday night, Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo on Tuesday night, and Minister of Natural Resources (Raphael Trotman) on Wednesday night, when we have also planned a training session for the women toshaos.”
Continuing, he said, “The Leader of the Opposition wants to host the toshaos on Thursday evening and on Friday evening, the ministers of Indigenous Peoples want to host them. It goes back to politicking, through ‘wining and dining.’ If they really want social cohesion, they could host one big event and let everyone from government and opposition interact freely. Under the PPP, the toshaos were not allowed to even talk to the opposition.”
One formal session on the agenda in which they would have liked to interact with government ministers through questions and answers, he said, may not be possible as the ministers are due to attend parliamentary sittings that are also slated for this week.