Insanally urges reexamination of role of Indigenous Peoples in Guyana’s development

Dr. Riyad Insanally

The Guyana Government values the role played by Indigenous Peoples in Guyana’s national development efforts highly, and Guyanese should be considering how to balance the traditionalist views of them with their desire to be integrated into the socio-economic, cultural and political life of the country, Guyana’s Permanent Representative to the Organization of American States (OAS) Ambassador Riyad Insanally said last Thursday.  

“Whilst we rightly celebrate our indigenous heritage, we should also be considering anew how we balance traditionalist views of our Indigenous Peoples with their own desire to be fully integrated into the socio-economic, cultural and political life of our country. After all, they are the people who started Guyana,” Insanally told a Special Meeting of the OAS Permanent Council, which met as part of the commemoration of the First Inter-American Week for Indigenous Peoples at its headquarters in Washington DC. The week was observed from August 6 to August 10, 2018, a Ministry of Foreign Affairs release said on Friday.

The week’s activities and the special meeting were to recognise the contributions made by Indigenous Peoples across the western hemisphere and to promote dialogue on forward-looking policies regarding the protection of their rights and the advancement of their social inclusion in the Americas.

Insanally, who is Guyana’s Ambassador to the United States of America, was accompanied by Lesley Dowridge-Collins, Deputy Chief of Mission, and Jason Fields, Alternate Representative of the Embassy of Guyana in Washington, DC.

In his remarks to the Permanent Council, Insanally noted that Guyana is home to nine indigenous nations, who make up about 10 to11 percent of the population and who “occupy a special place in our country’s rich tapestry.”

Some of the measures government is taking in order to improve the socio-economic conditions of the Indigenous Peoples, he said, are being implemented through allocations in the national budget to key sectors, such as health, education, housing, infrastructure and youth enterprise training. He noted also that there is a dedicated Ministry of Indigenous Peoples’ Affairs charged with keeping their special interests in the mainstream of national policy and planning.

He mentioned, among other things, the ministry’s indigenous language revival programme, the establishment of the Amerindian Land Titling Project Management Unit and the Grievance Redress Mechanism, and the key role anticipated for the Indigenous Peoples, as “the traditional guardians of our environment,” in the rolling out of the Green State Development Strategy.

He also mentioned the process of developing and implementing a ten-year Village Improvement Plan in Indigenous Peoples communities, the focus on incorporating indigenous communities into environmental management and development in line with their knowledge and traditional practices, and President David Granger’s commitment to increasing the subvention for the work of the Toshaos, which he made at the 12th Annual National Toshaos Conference held last month.

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