Residents of the Amerindian village of Siparuta which is currently governed by the Toshao of adjoining village Orealla are calling for the community to be granted the ability to elect its own leaders.
In doing so, the village would have the responsibility to effectively manage its affairs.
Under the current arrangement, Orealla takes the post of Captain of the Orealla-Siparuta Village Council while Siparuta gets the Vice Captain position.
Natural Resources Minister Vickram Bharrat and Agriculture Minister Zulfikar Mustapha visited the two communities on Monday, and residents of Siparuta expressed their dissatisfaction with the service they were receiving under the current Village Council.
Eugynie Ally, a pineapple farmer, told the Ministers that many of the villagers were easily bought over by members of the Orealla-Siparuta Village Council. “We put the Councillors there not to develop themselves,” she remarked.
She noted that a certain vessel has been making weekly trips taking lumber from the community, but there have been no returns to show.
According to her, the boat is packed with at least 15,000 board measurement (BM) of wood on every trip.
“And every week, two or three boats coming for sand. Where is all the money? There is no project in Siparuta to show. So, Minister, we need our own Village Captain and we need Councillors to listen to us – they are not there as kings and queens. You know what they put on the internet? They are the boss: Big Boss and Lil’ Boss,” she said in a voice filled with passion.
While still articulating the plight of the community, Ally claimed that members of the Village Council have been rigid on enforcing the wearing of face masks and social distancing, but in the evening they are hosting parties.
Another resident, Lenard Felix explained that the Council has failed to hold meetings with the village although residents have burning issues to be addressed.
“They are not telling us anything; that is why we need our own Village Captain,” he said.
However, the residents did not stop there, since they accused the Toshao of not visiting the community at all since the year started, but suddenly showing up on Monday when the Government Ministers visited.
“When it was election time, he come and promises that he will be coming every week. We say we will get weary of seeing him. Now he is Captain, we never see him. If it was not for you all, he would not have come,” Gladis Felix related.
In response to some of the complaints, Minister Mustapha explained that it would take a long time for the necessary policies to be put in place to allow Siparuta to have its own Toshao and Village Council.
He added that the Council and residents needed to find common ground and work together in the meantime.
Nevertheless, he promised to consult with the Amerindian Affairs Minister Pauline Sukhai on the issues raised and request that she visited the community.
In addition, Orealla residents have echoed similar sentiments about the manner in which their village is managed.
Percy Peneux claimed that the sand buyers pay for less than half of the sand they take out of the community. He noted that the lack of a general meeting in the village was one worrying matter.
“We have many more issues like financial irregularities and other issues which have to be dealt with emergency.”
Toshao Carl Peneux has defended himself, stating that owing to the COVID-19 pandemic, meetings were not held for the year, but noted that the financials of Orealla Village Council were audited last December and were currently in order.
The Amerindian Affairs Ministry is expected to carry out another audit at the end of the year, as such is mandatory before elections are held for a new Toshao. These elections are due next year.
The Toshao told Guyana Times that the sand miners come with their own equipment and fuel, hence the Village is obliged to accept whatever payments are being offered. All royalties, he added, are divided equally between Orealla and Siparuta. (Andrew Carmichael)