– for Amerindian land titling, ancestral lands next year
MINISTER of State Dawn Hastings-Williams on Thursday urged the Guyana Lands and Surveys Commission (GLSC) to make Amerindian Land Titling, ancestral lands and customer service issues their top priorities in the New Year, even as she commended them for a job well done in 2019.
The minister was at the time addressing staff and Members of the Board of Directors of the Commission at the end-of-year staff meeting, which was held at its Durban Backlands headquarters.
“I wish to highlight the three things I want us to strengthen in the New Year: First, the Amerindian Land Titling Project. This is a long-pending project that many of our Indigenous brothers and sisters are looking forward to for the development and tenure of their land. It causes developmental stagnation; it is my knowledge [that] this is a highly complex issue, but we need to serve our people diligently. Secondly, Ancestral lands; our Afro-Guyanese, who have claims for the lands of their fore parents, are very much eager, too, to find solutions to their case. The ‘good life’ which President David Granger speaks [of] includes land tenure for each Guyanese and their families, and thirdly, customer service. I have received observations on the time GLSC takes to respond to applications. We must do better to inform the citizens, and to process applications,” she said.
Minister Hastings-Williams also noted that while she is proud of the level of work the Commission has done in 2019, more must be done in the new year. She said the government has already set the tone by clarifying the roles and functions of the GLSC, and the Commission must now do its best to serve the Guyanese people.
“As the national surveying authority, on many occasions, functions of the GLSC have overlapped with other entities or completed by other institutions. By clarifying this, the Government of Guyana is in a better position to serve its people. During this season, institutions, companies and agencies [across] the world take this occasion to find areas to be strengthened in order to become better social stewards, and more productive, efficient and diligent,” she said.
Minister Hastings-Williams also congratulated staff members who pursued and completed their academic studies during the year. She urged them to use their newly acquired skills and knowledge to enhance the functions of the Commission.
“I want to congratulate those who achieved academic goals. Achieving academic goals is one thing; putting it into practice, into action, being creative, innovative and implementing efficiently is one other thing. I want to encourage you to use your academic achievements in developing this beautiful land of ours,” Minister Hastings-Williams said.
Meanwhile, Paulette Henry, Head of the GLSC Board of Directors said she is proud of the achievements of the Commission for the year. She also pledged the Board’s continued support to the Commission to ensure it achieves the vision outlined by the President.
“We have worked at the Board level to make sure that the policies are in place to facilitate those kinds of arrangements. Everything isn’t perfect; we have challenges, but what we have seen are clear requests for guidance on policy matters that need to be addressed, and we have sought to address them to the best of our abilities. We will do all we can to support the work of the Commission, but we need you, the foot soldiers, to do the remainder,” she said.
Chief Executive Officer Trevor Benn echoed similar sentiments, in that he, too, is proud of what the Commission has achieved for the year. He recalled that when he took over the reins of the Commission in 2016, the agency was making between $300 to $400M annually, which was barely enough to cover salaries for staff.
Today, some three years later, he said the Commission has reached its $1.2B target, and has been able to offer scholarships to staff to pursue studies both here at home and abroad, and to also invest heavily in training and equipment to increase its efficiency.
“People have no idea how much work we have to do behind the scenes,” Benn said, adding: “We want a workforce here that is second to none, and we have invested in our staff. We want to ensure we have the best trained staff in all areas, and we have been debating how to reward academic achievements. Unless we educate our workforce, we will not be able to sustain the work we have to do.”
Benn also reported that Guyana has had a number of successes internationally, with the country being one of two in the world to have implemented the Integrated Geo-spatial Information Framework.
Guyana is also set to co-chair the upcoming United Nations Expert Group on United Nations Global Geo-spatial Information Management: Private Sector Network (UNGGIM). (Ministry of the Presidency)