Residents of Chinese Landing accuse GGMC of breaching Amerindians’ rights

The Chinese Landing Village Council on Thursday said the recent removal of miners from Chinese Landing at Tassawini in Region One (Barima-Waini) is unlawful, and breaches their right as Amerindians in accordance with the Amerindian Act.
The Council, along with residents of the village, Vice Chairman of the Moruca Sub-District, Sharon Atkinson, and toshaos from neighbouring villages, condemned the recent enforcement exercise undertaken by the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission (GGMC) and the Police.
These enforcement officials have been accused of going into the mines and dismantling camps and closing business; but, more so, of destroying properties belonging to those village miners without notice or consideration.
The Toshao of Chinese Landing, Orin Fernandes, at a press conference held on Thursday, said that on Wednesday last, the GGMC, headed by Michael Howard and escorted by heavily armed members of the Guyana Police Force, descended upon their community with no advanced notification or written justification for entering village lands.
“They showed us no written order or basis for acting. They claimed they were acting on instructions of the Minister of Natural Resources and GGMC based on a CCJ ruling in 2017,” he said.
Fernandes explained that in addition to their traditional farming, fishing and hunting, residents had begun to engage in mining as an added source of income to maintain families and develop themselves and community, where economic opportunities are limited and there is no subvention from Government for development of the village.
“Mining, as a livelihood, supports our health and education systems that were in such a declined state (that) we could not continue to allow that. We needed to find money to send our children to school. We needed to invest in our teachers’ quarters, as many teachers did not want to work in our village. We had to make decisions and (take) steps to support our systems of development,” he said.
Toshao from the neighbouring Waikrebi Village, Rymple Williams, who stood in support of the Chinese Landing villager Council, said the court system in Guyana does not adequately protect the rights of Amerindians, but seeks to criminalise them on their own lands.
“Our people are scared, because the Government brought in weapons and heavily armed Police to our village,” he said.
Sharon Atkinson, vice Chairman of the Moruca Sub-District, who also stood in support of the Chinese Landing Village Council, highlighted that the Government has never offered any support or paid any interest in that village, and, as such, the community depends heavily on mining to support its developmental mechanisms.
She said the village has constructed quarters for teachers, and subsidises meals for those teachers who work for a meagre salary, which is not sufficient to maintain them in the community.
Further, she said the community conducts its very own river clearing exercise, all without any assistance from Government, and to halt the residents’ mining rights would severely impact on their wellbeing. She added that there is no health services’ access for those residents, and they have to travel to neighbouring villages hundreds of miles away to seek medical attention.
The mining by villagers in Chinese Landing not only provides employment and livelihood for those residents, but also for those residing in the Moruca Sub-District and in other neighbouring villages where economic activities are minimal.
They are calling on the administration to intervene and bring a speedy resolution to the matter.