21 October 2005

New Book on Guyana

The Rupununi Savannas of Guyana : A Visual Journey
By Lal Balkaran

"Rupununi Savannas of Guyana: A Visual Journey is a book for all readers with an interest in Guyana. The book is essentially a photojournal of the southwestern part of the country that borders its neighbour Brazil. See the story of the land, the people, their everyday life, and the flora and fauna captured in over 100 photographs of this scenic part of Guyana. The book is divided into ten chapters that include photographs and text..."

For more information see:

14 October 2005

Moreau de Jonnes--text now online

Karl Eklind (see http://svgblog.blogspot.com/), has generously devoted his time to preparing a copy, now online of:
Adventures in the Wars of the Republic and the Consulate (1858)
by Alexandre Moreau De Jonnes,
translated by A. J. Ardy.
(John Murray, London, 1920)

Chapter 6: Martinique - St. Vincent - The Caribs
You can see the full text of the chapter at:
As Karl explained a while back:
"I have known for several years that there was some writing about the Caribs on St. Vincent in 1795 in the memoire that Alexandre Moreau De Jonnes wrote in 1858 but the translation I got had nothing in it. Recently I got a 1920 translation by General Arby that does. I've put those 5 chapters on my St. Vincent blog at http://svgb.karleklund.net. It is a very exciting story. Almost too exciting to believe, but it makes sense and De Jonnes turned into a very respected scientist in his mature age. At worst it is like George Washington at Valley Forge--if it has been touched up for the sake of making it more interesting it is no worse than any other history. I think every Garifuna kid, especially young Garifuna girls, should read it; which is why I spent a fair amount of money to buy the book and why I put it on the internet."

5 Amerindian Communities get Land Titles in Guyana

Five Amerindian communities get land titles -Orealla's area extended

Friday, September 23rd 2005

Five Amerindian communities were on Thursday presented with land titles.

The land grants were made to Weruni (located on the Berbice River), Malali, Muritaro and Great Falls (on the Demerara River) and Orealla (which is on the Corentyne River) at a ceremony at the Office of the President (OP). President Bharrat Jagdeo handed over the titles to the village Toshaos and Minister of Amerindian Affairs Carolyn Rodrigues described the occasion as "a positive step in the road of Amerindian development" and "a tangible demonstration of the commitment of the government to resolve Amerindian land issues."

According to her, many of the communities have recognized that the only way forward is to work together with the government and she noted that a number of them came forward in order to advance the process under the PPP/C Government's policy. She said this policy was observed in the granting of the titles, particularly for the Region 10 communities. Orealla, which has been extended as a result of the grant, is in Region Six.

The policy is a two-step process involving the demarcation of lands that are already titled and, secondly, addressing extensions of titled lands and titling of untitled communities.

Rodrigues said government has adopted an approach to move to the second stage after all titled communities in a sub-region have been demarcated, since more than one community may be claiming the same area of land as has happened in some instances. She noted that demarcation is necessary because although communities were granted legal ownership of lands in 1976 and 1991 these lands were never surveyed. As a result, she said this has seen encroachment by miners, loggers and others, in the absence of clear boundaries and as a result the communities cannot enforce their laws.

Additionally, Rodrigues said that in several cases descriptions that are listed in the Amerindian Act do not match the reality on the ground. To illustrate her point she cited some communities that are located totally out of the legally recognized areas. She said they have been there since before the titles were issued, indicating that mistakes were made. She said some others have the wrong creek names.

Minister Rodrigues noted that the process of granting titles to the four untitled communities began more than two years ago. She said that with the Guyana Lands and Surveys Commission and the communities, a situational analysis was conducted on seven communities with a specific focus on land use. These were Kimbia, Sandhills, Riversview, Weruni, Muritaro, Great Falls, Malali and River's View. However, after consideration only four were then invited to submit their requests for lands and these areas were mapped and other stakeholders were identified. She said these included persons who had transports to plots of land within the areas requested and also mining and logging concessionaires. She also noted that while Great Falls was mentioned in the Lands Commission Report of 1969, according to the report no request was received from the community that numbered approximately 50 Akawaio persons back then.

The Guyana Geology and Mines Commission and the Guyana Forestry Commission were consulted and through negotiations with all of these stakeholders a final decision was arrived at. Rodrigues said although the titles are now being issued, the communities were managing the lands as any other titled community since early 2004.

She mentioned that the process involved some concessionaires relinquishing land so that the communities could receive their titles, while in others she said it was agreed to have them continue work with fees being paid to the Village Council. She added that to ensure adherence to the Constitution, transported plots of land, which are owned by individuals, have been saved.

With respect to Orealla, the Minister said it was the first community to be surveyed in 1991. However, in early 2003, the Orealla Village Council made a report to the Ministry of Amerindian Affairs that a logging concession was granted by the Guyana Forestry Commission on their titled village lands. She said checks with Lands and Surveys and the Forestry Commission found a number of discrepancies. Among these was the fact that the area surveyed and represented on the Map and State Lands Grant that was presented to the community, includes two tracts of land titled "Tract A" and "Tract B." However, Tract A is not described in the Amerindian Act, while Tract B includes the area described in the Act and an additional portion of land. It was also discovered that the Grant presented by then President Desmond Hoyte to the community was not signed. As such, she said legally the community had no ownership of the lands that were demarcated, except that part described in the Amerindian Act.

She said the matter was considered at Cabinet and approval was subsequently granted. The total area of Orealla will now be 266 square miles, while the total area of land that will be received by the five communities, whose combined population is approximately 1500 persons, is approximately 601.5 square miles (Muritaro 102, Malali, 95, Great Falls 31.6, Weruni 107, Orealla 266 square miles).

The Minister urged the villages to exercise good judgment in managing their lands, saying it must benefit not only those who are here now but future generations as well.

"As you are aware, your close proximity to markets makes you prime targets for logging ventures. Please ensure that you make agreements that will benefit your communities now and in the future," she told the Toshaos who were present. (Andre Haynes)

Fergus MacKay
Coordinator, Legal and Human Rights Programme
Forest Peoples Programme
Ph/Fax: 31-20-419-1746

Amerindian Act in Guyana

Amerindian bill unacceptable - says indigenous coalition

Stabroek News, Tuesday, October 4th 2005

A joint indigenous NGO coalition says the new Amerindian bill is unacceptable as some of its provisions represent a step backwards for indigenous people.

In a joint statement, the Amerindian Peoples Asso-ciation (APA), The Amerindian Action Movement of Guyana (TAAMOG) and the Guyana Organisation of Indigenous Peoples (GOIP), are urging against enactment of the bill without major changes.

"Discrimination against indigenous peoples remains entrenched and manifest in the draft, and our rights to lands, territories, and resources and to self-determination are neither adequately recognised nor protected," the statement, which is signed by APA President Tony James, TAAMOG President Peter Persaud and GOIP Chief Mary Valenzuela, said.

The coalition said it had hoped that the new bill would fully recognise the rights of the indigenous peoples, and in particular, their rights to traditional lands and resources. However, after a review of the bill it has concluded that the bill is in some ways regressive and does little other than institutionalise government policies that have been rejected by the people.

To illustrate the point, it cited S59 (3) that requires demarcations prior to the grant of extensions to titled areas. In other areas, the coalition said, there is weakening of existing policy statements. "While we do acknowledge that there are some improvements in the draft Act, these improvements are for the most part obvious and minor."

As such, the coalition said, it held the bill to be insupportable in its present form. And while it noted that the Minister (Carolyn Rodrigues) had said that there had been 46 changes to the draft that was presented for consultations, it said the improvements were minor and failed to address the serious flaws in the draft of the bill.

"Where the draft Act failed to account for and secure our rights and interests, the bill does the same," the coalition pointed out, adding that "Where the draft Act vests arbitrarily and draconian powers in the Minister, the Bill, with a few minor exceptions does the same."

Another major contention was that enactment of the bill without substantial changes will contravene Article 154 A of the Guyana Constitution, which guarantees the international treaties that are incorporated into domestic law.

The group said that on certain issues, including rights to land, territories and resources, the bill is incompatible with international human rights laws, including those specified under Article 154A. It added that in other areas, the bill fails to address certain rights at all.

"Due to the incompatibility with the constitution and international human rights laws, the bill, assuming it is enacted in its present form, may be challenged in the courts and international human rights bodies," it said.

It also pointed out that Guyana's implementation of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimi-nation - which is one of the treaties incorporated into law under Article 154A - will come up for Committee review next February. The coalition urged that the new bill not be enacted until the comments and observation of the Committee on the compliance with the convention.

On the issue of the use of the term "indigenous", the coalition said the majority of indigenous communities recommended this change and it felt that the exclusion of this recommendation in the bill was unjustifiable. "The Minister rejects our right to define ourselves and be recognised as indigenous peoples on the specious grounds that everyone is indigenous to Guyana and that because the term Amerindian is unique to Guyana - which it is not - we should continue to use this term." It also pointed out that the Constitution itself uses the term "indigenous peoples" to refer to the Amerindian people, and only them. In this regard, they urged that there be consistency with the Constitution. The bill is expected to come up for debate later this month.

Fergus MacKay
Coordinator, Legal and Human Rights Programme
Forest Peoples Programme
Ph/Fax: 31-20-419-1746

Taino Lecturer to Speak at Yale University

The following is the October itinerary for Taino/NativeAmerican lecturer, storyteller and poet Bobby Gonzalez:

October 2 Blessing of the Animals, Van Cortlandt Park, the Bronx
October 5 Westfield State College, Massachusetts
October 6 Brooklyn YWCA
October 12 University of Massachusetts, Amherst
October 17 Boston College
October 19 Yale University, Connecticut
October 25 William Patterson University, New Jersey

Visit Bobby's website at: http://www.BobbyGonzalez.com/