GINA, GUYANA, Monday, August 22, 2016
Minister of Indigenous Peoples’ Affairs, Sydney Allicock has promised Indigenous leaders (toshaos) that he will work with them to ensure they follow the laws, but those who seek to cause disunity among their peoples will face sanctions.
“As Minister I shall work with you to ensure that, all leaders abide by the laws. It is my hope that when I do, those who thrive on causing division will not seek mileage from my actions,” Minister Allicock told the 212 Indigenous leaders who participated in the 10th annual National Toshaos Council (NTC) conference at the Arthur Chung Convention Centre (ACCC).
The NTC conference is an annual five-day event which allows Indigenous leaders to interact with members of the government on issues affecting their respective communities.
While highlighting some of the behaviours of toshaos which are not in keeping with development, Minister Allicock said that the Ministry is committed to working with them to build capacity in the area of management, transparency, accountability and leadership.
Minister Allicock also expressed concern over the lack of respect shown for toshaos in the various villages, and the fact that village leaders are using their office to enforce unlawful rules and punishment unheard of.
“The same people who elected their leaders show scant regard for those leaders as they manage the day to day affairs of the villages. Likewise, disrespect by some toshaos for the citizens of their villages is alarming. We cannot continue to operate in this manner if we are going to move forward,” Allicock stated.
The minister further added, “There are some leaders who seek to use their elected offices to their own self-interest and to the frustration of villagers… Expelling councillors from meetings for disagreeing with a toshao, threatening councillors with dismissal, making arbitrary decisions and entering into agreements to exploit village resources without council or village approval cannot be allowed to continue,” Minister Allicock emphasised.
Minister Allicock also urged the NTC to take its responsibility seriously, and the Community Development Officers (CDOs) to be more proactive. The laid back attitude by CDOs will not be tolerated, and reports must be timely and specific, the Minister said.
Despite these challenges, Minister Allicock noted that progress has been made over the past year to develop the lives of the Indigenous peoples. The Hinterland Housing Programme, the Hinterland Employment and Youth Service (HEYS) project, and the drilling of wells in Region Nine are just some of the projects which have been rolled out.
The Minister noted that infrastructural works are ongoing by the Ministries of Public Infrastructure and Communities, and the regional administration. Government is discussing an agricultural project with International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) which will benefit Regions One and Nine.
Minister Allicock said that in moving forward, Government stands ready to support the strengthening of the Amerindian Act of 2006 and addressing Indigenous rights and land issues.
Meanwhile, Minister within the Ministry of Indigenous Peoples’ Affairs, Valerie Garrido-Lowe reflected on the progress made over the past year in the areas of youth and women development. Minister Garrido-Lowe said the 10-point plan unveiled by President David Granger last year, is ongoing.
In Region Eight, Minister Garrido-Lowe said that the youths are making full use of the HEYS programme which has been rolled out in 106 communities to date.
Minister Garrido–Lowe also noted that such an event (conference) is very important to Government in pursuit of a good life for all Guyanese.
Land is one of the major problems affecting the Indigenous peoples. NTC Chairman, Joel Fredericks highlighted the issue of the Amerindian Land Titling project which started under the previous administration. While some work has been done, more could have been done to address land issues, he stated. He is however, optimistic that this issue will be addressed during the conference.
The NTC chairman also called on Government to make land available in Georgetown to establish a secretariat for the NTC and the need for increased stipend for Toshaos and councillors.
President David Granger during his remarks gave his commitment towards discussing the issue at the level of Cabinet.
Also present at the event were Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo, Ministers of the Government, and Speaker of the National Assembly, Dr. Barton Scotland, a Canadian delegation and members of the diplomatic corps.
Over the next four days, issues including land titling, review of the Amerindian Act, health, education, renewable energy, and food security will be addressed at the NTC conference.
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