Silence is no longer the answer to the increasing level of disrespect that is being meted out to the Indigenous Peoples of Guyana.
This public statement is only being made as a desperate effort to bring into the public the increasing level of discontent being felt by the Indigenous Peoples of Guyana. We have been trying since our meeting last year to have a follow-up meeting with His Excellency, President David Granger. Imagine, the collective leadership of all the Indigenous Peoples of Guyana cannot get to see the President of Guyana. Instead we are sent from Ministry to Ministry to see other members of the cabinet, we have complied so far, but it seems to be a tactic to keep us from a meeting. It is our view that the Government has no intention or capacity for addressing the issues that affect the Indigenous Peoples of Guyana and because of this position His Excellency is unwilling to meet the Indigenous Leadership.
In 2017, the National Toshaos Council (NTC) and other indigenous organisations met with His Excellency, President David Granger to examine the very contentious Lands Commission of Inquiry (LCOI) which came out of the bilateral agreement between the Kingdom of Norway and the Government of Guyana to address Amerindian Land Titling. At the meeting the NTC also called on His Excellency to sanction Mr. Keith Scott for marginalizing the already marginalized indigenous Peoples of Guyana in the highest house in the land, to which His Excellency committed to review the Hansard and to be so guided. We are still awaiting action on this issue. Having consulted with our indigenous communities for 8 months on the LCOI, the NTC met and submitted our recommendations in relation to the LCOI and requested a meeting with His Excellency by mid-March 2018 to which His Excellency had committed.
The President has not met with us yet and his office keeps telling us to meet other members of the cabinet. We later received communications suggesting that before we meet with His Excellency, that we meet with Minister of Indigenous Peoples’ Affairs, Sydney Allicock. We have done that “twice.” After those meetings we received another communication from His Excellency saying that before we meet with His Excellency, we must meet with Minister Ramjattan. Exactly one day after receipt of that communication stating that we meet with Minister Ramjattan, we received yet another letter directing us to first meet with Minister Hastings-Williams. There are more than 20 more ministers, does the NTC have to first meet them all?
On the issue of mining, the NTC was also to enter an MoU with the Ministry of Natural Resources (MNRE) and to date, it appears it was only a publicity stunt by the MNRE. Minister Trotman has not responded to the issue of the MoU.
It is our concern that with the lack of addressing of these issues and the incoming Cybercrime bill, that the Indigenous Peoples could be charged with sedition when these issues are brought out in defence of “Our Rights.” It is also our view that the GoG is awaiting the change in the NTC. This is to avoid dealing with the issues, because even with a change in the NTC, the issues will still remain, and the Indigenous Peoples will continue to suffer.
I draw your attention to the recent events at Mae’s that saw one of our Indigenous sons being denied his Constitutional Right. This, I can say with great affirmation, is of no surprise.
Don’t take the token showing by certain staff of the Ministry of the Presidency/Ministry of Indigenous Peoples’ Affairs as any indication of commitment to getting this resolved.
When Mr Keith Scott insults Indigenous Peoples in Parliament and there is no consequence, it starts to paint a very solemn picture.
When Ms Nicolette Henry insults almost half the population in Parliament and there is no consequence, the picture becomes clearer. The callousness of some members of this administration has no bounds. Mr Scott and Ms Henry no doubt had set the stage for what is acceptable – “Demeaning and insulting other races is acceptable and there will be no consequence, because I did it in Parliament and no one held me accountable, so I cannot and will not hold you accountable.”
In discussions with our Indigenous Leaders, there seems little appetite to have disagreement for things that are unprincipled and wrong. Out of those discussions, they express fear of further speaking out publicly as they witness what became of the Parliamentary Opposition members. They also express fear because they intend on getting into private business after they leave office and they are saying they don’t want to be hassled. Whether their fears are unfounded or not, only time will tell!
What have we become when our leaders are once again fearful to speak out? Are we in another colonial era?
Earlier this year the NTC Executive met to address a variety of issues, most notably our “Land Rights,” mining, and the Amerindian Act. Also at issue was the fact that the plot of land allocated at Sophia to house the NTC’s Secretariat Complex has still not been granted to the NTC – two years later, considering that construction has started at a plot parallel to that one originally considered by the NTC. The Indigenous Peoples of Guyana are unhappy, and the brewing discontent manifested itself in calls by some communities for mass mobilization in Georgetown. At that meeting, we committed to the Indigenous Leaders that it would be premature to just start mobilization without first meeting with His Excellency and asked that we are permitted to meet with him (His Excellency) first and then be guided by those commitments.
His Excellency and the Leader of the Opposition are both in receipt of the letter by the NTC committing to mass mobilization if our rights are not respected.
We are yet to see a commitment by His Excellency to meet the Indigenous Leadership – the NTC. I must admit my pessimism of this happening on anything meaningful if not for lip service.
Vice Chair – National