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My attention was drawn to a letter published in the Stabroek News on May 15 2022 captioned: “We Amerindians are focused on the prize and will not be distracted by voices in the wilderness”. This letter is attributed to Alister Charlie, MP.
Apparently insulated within a parallel universe, oblivious to facts and the treatment of Indigenous Guyanese citizens by his People’s Progressive Party, Charlie attempts to paint a glorious picture of life among the Indigenous population. He succeeded only in reminding us of a court jester of medieval times.
I am an Indigenous citizen of Guyana. Alister Charlie does not, cannot and will never speak for me about Indigenous rights or any other issue under the sun. His writing in this instant is largely non-factual, absolutely incredible and in parts a regurgitation of Mr. Jagdeo’s utterings in the now infamous Vice News interview.
Charlie must not be allowed a free pass by media or Indigenous peoples and NGOs. He seeks to distort Guyana’s realities and must be exposed. Charlie must explain what is meant when he states that Indigenous peoples’ rights being upheld “more than ever before” and “those rights were advanced greatly in 2020” under the PPP. These statements amount to absolute trash and ought to be placed where they belong, in the rubbish bin of history.
Is greater rights protection included in refusal to hold National Toshaos Council (NTC) conference? Is the refusal to have election for the NTC executive Committee a form of greater rights protection? Is the PPP’s refusal to continue the process of consultation regarding the amendment to the Amerindian Act a way of increasing the protection of the rights of Guyana’s Indigenous Peoples?
The Indigenous peoples officially requested the review of the Amerindian Act to bolster existing rights and to include known rights not yet legislated, to further enhance participation in national decision making on issues which directly affect Indigenous peoples here. The Granger government started the process. The PPP abandoned that process while boasting, as does Charlie, about the existing Amerindian Act. This is a major insult to Guyanese Indigenous peoples who expressly stated great unease with many aspects of the Act. Charlie must be reminded that the first Amerindian Act was not born in 2006. It was in place since 1951 until repealed and replaced by the existing 2006 Act.
Charlie must be called upon to provide this nation with a list of Villages and the area of each, which amount to the six percent which they allegedly inherited and fourteen percent to which they allegedly grew lands titled to Indigenous peoples. This is an impossible task. No amount of statistical manufacturing can help him. An explanation regarding the presentation of fake titles to Kangaruma and Tasserene Villages in 2012 is not only desirable, but necessary.
Charlie must tell this nation specifically which legislation offers Indigenous peoples of Guyana “Guarantee of not only the right to land but sub-surface rights, meaning rights over minerals in the ground”. We all know that this is a right being advocated for by Indigenous peoples and consistently denied by the PPP. We also know that PPP’s refusal to identify the First Peoples of Guyana as Indigenous Peoples has to do with its refusal to recognise this right in law. It is also the chief reason for avoiding the amendment to the Amerindian Act.
Finally, in championing the PPP’s record on Indigenous rights, Charlie must immediately explain to this nation his position on the UN’s letter to the PPP government regarding the Isseneru, Chinese Landing, Marudi Mountain and other related issues on the subject of consistent Indigenous rights violations by the government he seeks to promote. We can come back to those rights violations inherent in the handling of Village issues by the Minister of Amerindian Affairs whenever he is through with addressing the foregoing, an impossibility if you ask me.