Mining, Indigenous land rights and the Stockholm Syndrome

One year ago, Legal Affairs Minister Basil Williams, to the amusement of many, audaciously forecasted that the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) Opposition would join the ranks of the coalition Government. Farthest from the truth is where history places him today. In any case, who in their right mind would make such a prediction when the People’s National Congress Reform (PNCR)-dominated A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) has made a mockery of the Alliance For Change (AFC)? Almost half way into its mandate, the Government barely fits the definition of a coalition of parties, and continues to use AFC officials as rubber-stamp champs.
Yet Natural Resources Minister Raphael Trotman, when questioned, affirms that “the coalition is strong”, as if it isn’t clear enough that the PNC strives to undermine those from the AFC who still exert some level of authority over important national portfolios. Trotman however, cannot dissimulate the bullish nature which is historically embedded deep in the veins of the PNC. This hypothetically provides some insight into why founder of the Guyana Women Miners Organisation (GWMO), PNC member and Junior Natural Resources Minister Simona Broomes, is allowed to encumber the Indigenous land titling process in Tasserene.
So PNC supporters through mining syndicates want land to mine and they want it now. What better way to pressure those for whom their votes matter the most when they cannot derive immediate satisfaction from Trotman, than protesting outside the party Chairman’s workplace? In so doing, they have sent two strong and unmistakably symbolic messages: even if the AFC forms part of the coalition, it doesn’t have the requisite decision-making power to run the show, and in any case, PNC party supporters are the ones who muster the favours of the Government more than any other segment of the coalition electorate. The PNC “run things now”.
Of course to save face and increase future prospects in a (highly implausible) scenario where the same coalition of parties wins the 2020 election, Trotman and his opportunistic party comrades will continue to justify the very prejudices they are indubitably subject to. Were it not for the opportunistic nature of political “party-hoppers” and protagonists involved, one might find the case fit for a Stockholm Syndrome diagnosis.
Interestingly, it takes only a bit of shouting from miners to obtain land rights almost immediately, while Indigenous peoples in Guyana are currently being denied their ancestral rights over lands which they have inhabited long before the Europeans even set foot on South America. In stark contrast with the privileges being bestowed on miners, Guyana’s First Peoples have seen their land rights overtly targeted by the coalition regime. The David Granger ordained Lands Commission fiasco, literally amputated decades of hard work which pioneered Indigenous land rights in Guyana, silencing the voice of Indigenous peoples and rendering the scant complaints almost inaudible. And since Granger and his Cabinet conveniently hide behind historical revisionism and their “personal perception” of the law, the ambiguities and flaws of the Mining Act Cap 65:10 will continue to be used as pretext for privileges granted to miners over Indigenous land rights.
Understandably, economic mismanagement, unabashed corruption and discriminatory government practices, instilled a feeling of disenfranchisement which is palpable among Guyanese citizens country-wide. However, the highest forms of disdain are currently reserved for Amerindians, which is why Keith Scott was allowed to pollute the Parliament of Guyana on June 16, 2017, via his ignominious utterances intended to delegitimise Indigenous land rights. Little did he seem to realise then, that not only was he breaching globally recognised minority rights, but he was also infringing on Guyana’s Independence Act Cao 14 S 17 as well as the constitutional provisions which uphold Indigenous peoples in Guyana.
Au finale, this recent victory of mining syndicates in securing more lands to mine is but just one aspect of the regime’s discriminatory and biased treatment of Guyanese, determined by political creed and as far as Indigenous peoples are concerned, ethnicity.
The PNC-dominated Government cannot summon respect for the minority factions of its own coalition, prefers to wage open political warfare among its own ranks and cut grass under the feet of those who alternatively, should represent its proclivity for national unity. How then can we expect governance based on equity and equality for all Guyanese?