Indigenous village leaders must seek to serve rather than control
By Yusuf Khan
Stabroek News
May 28, 2003

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Minister of Amerindian Affairs Carolyn Rodrigues told the National Toshaos Conference which opened at Lake Mainstay resort in Region Two yesterday that indigenous village leaders should see their leadership position in terms of serving the people and not as one for power and control.

Rodrigues told the conference that she has been receiving lots of letters requesting that some toshaos be removed.

Allegations in the letters also cite corruption, misuse of community funds and other assets, misrepresentation of the communities’ views, incompetent leadership and political affiliation.

She further said that she had also received letters from some toshaos requesting that their councillors be removed on the grounds of their non-cooperation.

The three-day conference is being held under the theme “Working together for a better future”.

The Minister in her address also noted that the conference was taking place “when many things are happening in respect to indigenous peoples - the process for the revision of the Amerindian Act is at an advanced stage, the way is being cleared for the Indigenous Peoples Commission to be installed, the report on the Region 10 community resources use is being finalised, (and) the consultation on the National Protected Areas System is moving apace”.

And Cabinet will soon be presented with the findings of the Region 10 Land/Resource use, the Minister said.

The conference commenced with prayers in Arawak by Toshao Lloyd Perreira of Wakapoa, a welcome by Toshao Yvonne Fredericks Pearson of Mainstay/Whyaka, a cleansing ceremony by Toshao Edward Smith of Kabacaburi, and a Mari Mari Arawak dance by the Mainstay Whyaka dance group.

The Minister’s address was followed by discussions of the National Toshaos Council (NTC) and the presentation of recommendations.

During the morning session of the conference, toshaos were sworn in as rural constables.

The oath was administered by Assistant Commissioner of Police, Cecil Bovell, accompanied by Deputy Commander ‘G’ Division, Clement Ross. The newly-elected toshaos were sworn in by Minister Rodrigues.

Today Jean La Rose is scheduled to do a presentation on “The Indigenous Peoples Commission (IPC)”, and there will also be an update on the Amerindian Act by Juliet Solomon and Kid James.

Other topics slated for the second day are international law, conventions and treaties that Guyana has ratified and declarations that apply to indigenous peoples, and how international law lends support to the revision of the Amerindian Act.

There will also be presentations on land resources, mining, forestry, hydro-dams, roads and projects, and an indigenous NGOs information session.

On day three, tomorrow, the sessions will focus on roles, powers and duties of village councils and further information on the Amerin-dian Act; election of the National Toshaos Council, NGO funding agencies and economic ventures in indigenous communities.

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