Some Amerindian communities seeking titles, extensions

Guyana Chronicle
May 26, 2003

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SEVERAL 'untitled' Amerindian communities in Region Ten (Upper Demerara/Upper Berbice) are in the process of obtaining titles to their Communities, a report from the Government Information Agency (GINA) stated..

According to Minister of Amerindian Affairs Carolyn Rodrigues, consultations were recently concluded with the communities and the results should be presented to Cabinet in another two weeks.

The communities that are moving to have titles to their lands are: Sand Hill, Kimbia, Wiruni, Rivers View, Malali, Great Falls and Muritaro.

But, according to Minister Rodrigues, "The request from the communities are different in that some of them are asking for individual lands rather than communal lands and Government has to look at that very carefully" to identify possible positive and negative impacts.

Bearing in mind, however, that the requests are from the community,

Rodrigues said that the communities would have to be consulted again to determine the way forward.

While individual land titles may be a boost to individual Amerindians, among other things, there would be implications, for instance, when the holder of an individual title sells his land to perhaps a coastlander, which "may well lead to the breaking-up of the fabric of that community."

Presently, there are only two titled Amerindian communities in Region Ten, namely, Calcuni and Hururu.

The Amerindian Ministry, along with the Lands and Surveys Department of the Ministry of Agriculture, and the Guyana Forestry Commission (GFC), is dealing with the matter thoroughly. The Ministry also has the support of the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission (GGMC) as it relates to the issue of Amerindian Lands.

"We're all working to see if we could meet a good conclusion," Ms. Rodrigues said. She pointed out that in dealing with the issue at the national level, different criteria would have to be adopted for the various communities as it varies from community to community and from Region to Region.

So far, approximately 35 communities have completed the demarcation exercise, but only Region Two (Pomeroon/Supenaam) and Region Ten have been fully completed.

"We asked the communities of Region Two to make their submissions as to what they think their extensions should be and then we would start negotiations with them," the Minister said.

The invitation was thrown out by the Ministry since last December, but

unfortunately, the Minister said, only one community has so far made its submission to the Ministry.

For the extension phase to move forward, however, it would require that all the communities make their requests before the exercise starts, since one community may be asking for an extension that another community is also asking for.

It is the policy of the Government to move forward efficiently with the
Amerindian Land issue. However, it is also Government's policy to complete the demarcation exercise at the Regional level before requests for extensions are considered.

Rodrigues feels that for the process to move forward there must be interactive and regular consultations as well as commitment from the
parties involved.

"I am very optimistic that we can move forward with this. It has been
something too long on the table," the Minister said.

In Region Nine (Upper Takutu/Upper Essequibo), there are six more
communities to be demarcated.

The present Government initiated the land Demarcation exercise in 1997, after persistent calls from the Amerindian communities to have their communities demarcated.

In fact, when the PPP/C Government assumed Office in 1992, one of their main policies was to have the issue of Amerindian Lands addressed in a timely manner, the Minister said.

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