Toshaos against establishment of a 5-member authority
While most Toshaos are pleased with the pledge of the President to have Cabinet deliberate on accenting to a
piece of land for the National Toshao Council (NTC), many of them are against the establishment of a five-person body to assist the Council.
At the closing of the National Toshao Council Conference, Guyana Times spoke to several indigenous leaders and they expressed disapproval with the President’s call for the setting up of a five-person Indigenous People’s Authority to speed up the implementation of decisions coming out of the NTC.
On Monday, President David Granger had stated that it is unfair for the Ministry of Indigenous Peoples’ Affairs to act as “postman” in a fragmented system diffusing across the several ministries in order to access aid for health, physical infrastructure, social protection, economics, and education, Granger stated that it is applicable for such a novel establishment.
He predicted that the body will implement decisions made by the NTC and the National Assembly.
“We need to clothe the Ministry of Indigenous People’s Affairs with the authority to act decisively to deal with some of these problems,” he had said, charging the Minister to recommend measures to set up the authority.
However, one Toshao of Region Nine (Upper Takatu-Upper Essequibo) stated that this is a bad move since it would usurp the role of the Ministry of Indigenous Peoples’ Affairs and the Council. “We don’t need something like that if we already have a ministry and the NTC,” he said, adding that the Government to turn their eyes at establishing ways to fix more pressing issues like mining and the social breakdown of the hinterland regions.
Toshao of Isseneru, Region Seven (Cuyuni-Mazaruni) Darnes Larson said; “I don’t think it is a wise idea because the Ministry already has two Ministers, two advisors plus technical workers,” stressing that his opinion is not blinded by any “agents of division” or support of any political party.
He stated that it is crucial for the Government to address issues such as mining, land titling, and the rights of Amerindian peoples.
President Granger had stated that the authority would work under the Ministry to lend support to the NTC as a measure to better the quality of life for indigenous people.
Indigenous Peoples’ Affairs Shadow Minister Pauline Sukhai has also openly rejected the call. She contended that the new body would undermine the work of the Ministry and the NTC, explaining that the Ministry is already staffed with technical people to manage the affairs of the people.
“I notice that there is an attempt to usurp the power of the NTC now and even the Ministry of Indigenous People’s Affairs where now you are going to propose to establish a five-man committee to implement decisions. I don’t see independence in that,” Sukhai said.
“…there is need for support for empowering and support of indigenous leaders. How will you establishing a five-person committee when there is a Ministry of Indigenous Peoples’ Affairs with two Ministers,” she added.
However, NTC Chairman Joel Fredericks received President Granger’s announcement with elation. “I believe this is a step in the right direction and I support it but I think the NTC should be a part it,” he said.