Amerindians call on Govt, Judiciary to prioritise land case

first_imgAmerindians, particularity those belonging to the Akawaio and Arekuna tribes that reside in the Upper Mazaruni area are calling for Government’s intervention in a 20-year-old court battle.Amerindian People’s AssociationThe individuals through one of their representative organisations, the Amerindian People’s Association (APA), on Tuesday said the Government and the Judiciary have failed them.“We are hereby calling on the Government of Guyana by way of the Guyana Lands and Surveys Commission, Natural Resources Ministry and the Environment [Protection Agency], and the Legal Affairs Ministry to finally put this issue to rest by granting the rights of the Indigenous peoples in the area,” it said.The APA is asking these organisations to prioritise this issue. It believes that a positive reaction will show to the Indigenous peoples of Guyana that Government is really “on our side.”It is 20 years since the Indigenous peoples of the Upper Mazaruni filed a court action against the Government, seeking legal recognition to their traditional and ancestral lands.In 1967, the Government instituted an Amerindian Lands Commission; tasked with mapping and suggesting titles to be issued to Indigenous communities. In 1991, title was granted individually to each community, though they requested holding collective title to their traditional territory.The APA said that the villages of Paruima, Waramadong, Kamarang (Warawatta), Kako, Jawalla and Phillipai in the Upper Mazaruni have long sought legal title over the area defined by the 1959 Amerindian District as one Akawaio/Arecuna district.Dissatisfied, the Arekuna and Akawaio people took the landmark case to court to fight for their rights as Indigenous peoples of Guyana. However, the case has not yet been given a definitive ruling some two decades later.The Association recalled that in 2008, when they appeared in court again; the issue was adjourned. When they met in 2012 and the community brought forth an anthropologist to provide expert evidence on their claims to their ancestral lands; the Government’s defence team disqualified her as a witness and caused the matter to be adjourned once again.Fast forward to 2017, the Government filed a submission in defence of their claim. And exactly 20 years later, and the communities are still awaiting a decision from the High Court.“It seems as if the Government has not prioritised these issues and it begs us to question if the stalling of this issue trivialises Indigenous people’s rights, especially as related to their lands.”It was noted in the statement that Government has however been issuing mining concessions on these lands throughout the 20-year legal battle.“They continue to issue mining rights to outside miners over this traditional Akawaio and Arekuna territory without their free, prior and informed consent (FPIC), even though this legal dispute is ongoing,” the statement added.“Is it ethical to continue giving concessions on lands that are still being contested in the court? The Government has been receiving revenues for lands in the areas, even though they have not yet settled the matter with the Indigenous peoples in the Upper Mazaruni area and this is cause for worry.”The APA therefore questioned whether Government is deliberately stalling this process to continue profiting off of these lands or if it is a case of incompetence in Guyana’s judicial process.last_img read more