two months ago, some twelve hundred residents of the Rupununi petitioned President Granger to have the Regional Executive Officer (REO) for Region Nine, Carl Parker, removed. The request was founded on 14 different grounds of violation of their democratic and human rights, inclusive of sexual harassment, political discrimination and discriminatory work ethics.
The petition came as a surprise to both Parker and Communities Minister Ronald Bulkan. But while the first sought, in a manner which befits his reputation, to intimidate the woman who submitted the petition, the Minister simply tried to discredit it and shrugged it off. Several stakeholders to indigenous rights were copied, including the Indigenous Peoples’ Affairs Ministry, the Social Cohesion Ministry, The Amerindian Action Movement of Guyana (TAAMOG) and the Guyana Empowered Peoples Action Network (GEPAN).
To date, no one knows whether or not efforts have been or are being made to investigate the matter. Minister Bulkan’s arrogance has climaxed to a point where he deems it unnecessary to respond to the repeated requests of the civil actors involved, to discuss a way forward on the matter and provide an update on any undergoing investigation.
The Ministry of the Presidency issued letters of acknowledgement to GEPAN and to the petitioner who solicited the President’s intervention. Both letters were presumably issued by President Granger, but, since they carried preformatted signatures, it is hardly likely that he cared to pen them himself. These letters are unsubstantial insofar as they do nothing else but dump the responsibility for handling this petition on the Communities Minister who in turn, has turned his back on the Amerindians, the Regional Democratic Council and the non-governmental organisations who were asked to intervene on behalf of the petitioners.
Unsurprisingly, President Granger has adopted the same stance on the issue of a People’s National Congress member of Government who mines on Amerindian proposed titled land in Tasserene. All he cared to do when asked for his urgent attention on the issue, was to send another pointless preformatted letter which delegated full responsibility for handling the conflict of interest to Natural Resources Minister Raphael Trotman. Of course, to date, the Natural Resources Ministry has motionless on the fact that it is in violation of the requirements of the Amerindian Land Titling Project.
Perhaps President Granger and his Cabinet are hoping that both cases will eventually be forgotten if no one mentions them again. Or maybe, it is that they are giving false hope to Amerindians by sending useless letters reassuring them of the Government’s dubious commitment to indigenous rights. Unfortunately, both matters represent grave violations of indigenous rights in which the Government of Guyana is directly implicated. Consequently, full resolution of these issues depends entirely on the Government’s goodwill, a notion to which it seems oblivious, if not alien.
These corrupt practices of the Government however, will go down in history as the first of their kind, for never before since 1966, were we faced with a Minister whose mines obstruct Amerindian land titling, and never were we faced with a petition exceeding a thousand signatures, against a political appointee accused over and over and over again of violating indigenous rights. But more importantly, the President’s complacency cobbled with that of the Indigenous Peoples’ Affairs Minister who to date has not said a word on either case, exemplifies the disempowerment of indigenous peoples in 2016.
The question is, what recourse do Amerindians have when the Government is keener on protecting its politicians than its own people?
One would think that the best solution at this point would be to seek out the help of international actors. Strangely however, those present in Guyana seem to have a penchant for this Government, quite unlike the attitude they had adopted under the former Administration. For instance, when asked to intervene on the Tasserene case, the UNDP like the Indigenous Peoples’ Affairs Ministry, remained unresponsive, even to a request to meet with one of the civil actors involved.
The Guyanese civil society also demonstrates a troubling level of indifference to both matter, and so Amerindians to date are doused with the sentiment of helplessness. They can only rely on themselves for results, within the ambit of their capacity to act and to obtain results, in a society that is becoming less and less just.