– Minister Sukhai
By Naomi Parris
FOR far too long indigenous peoples have been in battles to claim lands that are rightfully theirs, and it is now time for that war to come to an end so villagers can utilise what is theirs.
Minister of Amerindian Affairs, Pauline Sukhai, said Amerindians must be allowed to mine on their village lands.
The minister echoed these comments at a recent meeting held with several residents and officers from the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission (GGMC) in the Campbelltown Potaro-Siparuni (Region Eight), where they have been battling for their right to utilise their own lands to carry out works and mining activity to provide for their families.
“For too long, poor Amerindian livelihood has been put at risk by unscrupulous people in and around the country, and we are not, under the PPP/C Government going to tolerate it,” she said.
She further stated that the permission to mine on those lands comes from the people of the communities themselves; as such, no one is authorised to remove them from said lands.
“In an Amerindian village, only the villagers approve mining, and the Village Councils take that approval, formulate it into an agreement and then enact the agreement.”
The minister added that the Village Council makes the agreement on behalf of the people and such is facilitated by the GGMC.
However, according to the residents, the toshao had made the decision unilaterally.
The villagers had several complaints against the toshao with the most pressing being her decision to stop them from “hustling”.
“Unilaterally she is making decisions and she is putting out all her villagers from earning… this matter has to be done correctly so… the suggestion and the recommendation coming from me as a minister, who is not the minister of mining but the Minister of Amerindian Affairs, in the interest of the villagers, GGMC must put a hold on mining now,” Minister Sukhai said in response to the villagers’ complaints.
She noted that the mining activities will not be put on hold indefinitely; just until the villagers and their leader resolve the issue in the best interest of the people. Minister Sukhai added that GGMC’s role would be to facilitate the process for external miners and dredge owners applying for permits to mine.
Minister Sukhai also urged the GGMC officers to acquaint themselves with the Amerindian Act. “GGMC is overseeing a situation which is totally flawed and they are taking instructions from the leader and the toshao, based on a flawed system which they themselves have not been party to and this is what we got to guard against,” the minister stated.
Meanwhile, the minister noted too that the reputation of the mining officers in the region was the “least to be desired”.
The minister said she will have discussions with the Natural Resources Minister about the issue.