Monday, December 29, 2008

Toshao council reviews guide to Amerindian Act

Guyana (Stabroek News) - The Ministry of Amerindian Affairs on Tuesday hosted a consultation for the National Toshao Council to review a simplified guide to the Amerindian Act to ensure it is easily accessible.

According to a Government Information Agency (GINA) press release the guide was presented at the two-day consultation and the participants were charged with ensuring that it met its objectives. The guide was prepared by Guyanese lawyer Melinda Janki.

Principal Regional Development Officer at the ministry Ovid Williams said his ministry “worked with Ms. Janki to prepare a guide and that has been done and we are going to have reviews to that guide… so that you can get your clarifications and whatever doubts you have cleared up.”

Additionally, Natural Resources and Liaison Officer at the ministry Norman Whittaker noted that Guyana has come a long way in terms of putting in place the kind of legislation which reflects the wishes, views, and recommendations of Amerindians throughout the country. “Some Amerindians have problems determining and understanding some sections of the Act and it is for that reason that the Ministry entered into an arrangement to have a practical guide that will enable them to understand and implement the Act,” he said. He urged the participants to ensure that the document is indeed accessible to all Amerindians.

In her address Janki said, “The Amerindian Act is very different from the kind of rules that govern Aborigines in other countries… Amerindian communities in Brazil for example, do not own their lands; the State owns it and the State sets aside reservations and makes all the decisions but this is not the case in Guyana since communities own the lands and they decide what happens to the resources on these lands so we need to understand that the situation in Guyana is different and it is probably unique.”

She noted that in Canada aborigine land title is based on very strict conditions which include occupation of the land but in Guyana, Amerindians only have to show that they have been in existence for 25 years and they are eligible to make a claim.

On March 14, 2006, President Bharrat Jagdeo assented to the Amerindian Bill passed in the National Assembly earlier in the year after consultations.

According to GINA the amended act addresses pertinent issues including access to forestry resources, mining and protected areas, and the power to veto small and medium-scale mining in Amerindian communities. No protected areas would be established on Amerindian lands unless they are so inclined. GINA said too the Council was established in 2007 and comprises toshaos countrywide.

The executive includes 20 persons with at least one toshao from each region. The consultation was held at the Foreign Service Institute.

Source: Stabroek News

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