Santa Rosa Village Council threatens legal action if issue not amicably resolved

Titled boundaries debacle

By Samuel Sukhnandan

Although the largest Amerindian village in the country, Santa Rosa Village, located along the Moruca River, Region One (Barima-Waini), is faced with a major unresolved issue since 2006 when the village was demarcated, but the Village Council there hopes that the matter could be resolved amicably in earnest.
The Village Council said if no proper action was taken to resolve the disputed boundaries issue, it would have no choice but to take the matter to court, as they believe that the Guyana Lands and Surveys Commission (GLSC) did not properly demarcate the boundaries for the village.

Left to right: Former Santa Rosa Toshao Basil Cornelius, current Village Toshao Sherwin Abram and Santa Rosa Village Councillor Paul Atkinson at Monday’s press conference

During a press conference on Monday at the Amerindian Peoples Affairs (APA) headquarters, a team of three village leaders from that area told the media that the matter was raised with the previous Government and at countless National Toshaos’ Conferences, but to no avail.
Former Toshao Basil Cornelius noted that while his village was not against demarcation, the village was still maintaining that it was incorrectly done. According to him, several communities have been directly affected by this, and it has created some level of uncertainty among residents.
“When demarcation took place under the 2006 Amerindian Act it was done with the description by the 1976 Act and it was done by the GLSC. They did not fully follow the 1976 Amerindian Act description,” he explained, noting that more than 160 people have been directly affected.
Apart from several islands being placed outside the boundary of Santa Rosa, Cornelius said that one community was cut in half during the demarcation process, which has caused a great deal of worry among residents, but the Village Councils continue to maintain peace among villages.
“What (land) we legally supposed to have we were robbed. I would say it’s because of the haphazard way our village was demarcated,” he added.
It was further explained that the issue was made even worse, since after the village would have been demarcated and an application was made for extension, the Shell Beach Protected Area was established and part of that constitutes land the village claims.
While the Government had recommended the establishment of a land rights Commission of Inquiry (CoI) that will seek to address the joint and communal ownership of lands acquired by freed Africans and the claims of Amerindian land titling, several organisations had come out against it.
Some claimed that the Terms of Reference (ToRs) of the CoI were vague, as they did not define clear objectives of addressing the issue of communal lands belonging to Amerindians, while the composition of the CoI team was questioned as there were few experts in Amerindian land titling on the team.
Nevertheless, the Santa Rosa Village Council was granted the opportunity to meet with Indigenous Peoples’ Affairs Minister Sydney Allicock and they discussed the matter in full detail. While the team was not given any assurances that the Government would have the issue resolved, it was advised to dialogue with the neighbouring Village Councils and to come up with a plan to address the issue properly.