The government is in the process of establishing a Lands and Life Commission to address the issue of land extension in indigenous communities and ancestral lands in coastal communities.
Minister of State, Joseph Harmon during his post-Cabinet press briefing today, at the Ministry of the Presidency explained that the conversation for the establishment of the Land and Life Commission are well advanced and the government has already developed the Terms of Reference (TOR) for the commission.
Senior Councillor Paul Atkinson of Santa Rosa Village, Region One raising a concern about land at the 2016 National Toshaos Council (NTC) Conference
“Land titling and extension is a major issue in our country because when you extend your title, the land that is covered by your title, you are affecting someone else who would have actually have ownership of that land, so extension sometimes bring about tension among communities…This matter is being address by cabinet, in fact President David Granger spoke about it and the Government’s position is that rather than extending titled areas in an ad hock manner, we should have a holistic approach to the matter of land titling,” Harmon said.
The Indigenous peoples have long been complaining about miners exploiting their lands in search of minerals, while miners have also expressed their concerns regarding indigenous communities only applying for land extension when there is a gold rush in a particular area.
Minister Harmon said that these concerns have been noted and it is the government’s view that these issues should be dealt with in a holistic manner, considering that there are funds being provided under the Norway agreement.
The commission will address these matters in a very timely and expeditious manner, the minister noted. He added that the government has already started interviewing prospective commissioners to execute these works.
The Land and Life Commission is part of President David Granger’s Ten-Point Strategic Plan which he unveiled in August 2015 at the National Toshaos Conference, “Land is life for the indigenous people and we are aware that over the last 49 years, there have still arisen many unresolved land claims and issues. Your Government is aware of this problem,” the President had said.
The Ministry of Indigenous Peoples Affairs has made a proposal in its 2017 budget to cater for the titling of additional communities. Additionally, the revision of the Amerindian Act of 2006 began at the recently concluded National Toshaos Conference where the issue of land titling was the main focus.