Tony Vieira's Comments
18 October 2017

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Amerindian Act
(Aired 30 September 2005)

    Every now and then, if you have a sense of humour, you see something that leaves you in hysterics.

    The PPP, as usual wanting to control and not regulate Amerinindian affairs in this country, want to introduce an Amerindian Bill; now despite popular opinion I do not consider Baharat Jagdeo to be the solution to our problems, but the cause of them, he is a control freak, he just cannot help it, he goes around with his namby pamby attitude but underneath that façade resides an Indian version of Forbes Burnham.

   So he gets an Amerindian woman who is prepared to betray her heritage for position and he makes her Minister of Amerindian Affairs, her budget is controlled by his office and she basically can do nothing without his permission. Since this started out to be a piece on humour I want to tell you that in Wednesday's ramblings this week which is by the way my favourite newspaper event of the week on the 28th September 2005 the author asks the question why do we need a Minister of Amerindian Affairs? And notwithstanding the satire, I ask the same question. 

   But we do have a Minister of Amerindian Affairs so we have to live with that for now, she and Jagdeo rush in like bulls in a china shop to trample on the rights of the Amerindian people and they run into an elephant by the name of David James. Now I have met and have spoken to David James he is an ice man, totally cool and brighter and better informed than both Jagdeo and Rodrigues on this particular matter, so for the PPP what was supposed to be an exercise of stealing candy from a baby has turned out to be a nightmare since David James, like his Biblical counterpart, is about to slay Goliath. It's hilarious.

   In these commentaries unlike what you see in the newscast per se we examine strange situations and we try to find the reason why certain things are happening, it is a sort of editorial and that is why I have allowed my commentaries and indeed Kit Nascimento's as well to occupy a place within the newscast itself, it is our way of editorialising ..... of interpreting the facts for the public who may not fully grasp all the elements of a certain situation.

   So I kept asking myself why would Jagdeo want this Amerindian Bill put in place now so close to the 2006 elections, since many obnoxious elements contained in it was bound to cause trouble among the Amerindians and could even lead to lost votes. I have concluded that given the powers this bill seeks to confer on the Government, that fair campaigning by non PPP politicians within the Amerindian Communities would be impossible since part II 5. (1) of the bill states Quote "that any person, other than a person referred to in section 8, who wishes to enter [Amerindian] community lands shall apply for and obtain the permission of the Village council" the exemptions in section 8 are government employees conducting legitimate state business only.

   Rodrigues has said publicly that she has had far reaching consultations with the Amerindian community throughout the country; she nevertheless comes up with a bill which none of the four Amerindian organisations in Guyana want.

  First of all the bill is called the Amerindian Bill, the Amerindian orginisations want it to be called the Indigenous People's Bill. It has been a sore point from day one in the consultations between the government and the Amerindians; Rodrigues tells us that if the Amerindian People's Association is so in love with the term Indigenous People then they should change their name to the Indigenous People's Association! Well I for one consider this completely unacceptable; an insult to the Amerindian People's Association and hopefully the United Nations has taken note of it.

   Ladies and gentlemen less than 12 years ago the United Nations drafted what they called the declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, let us face it, we came here all of us, and we took their lands we are the intruders here not them, this UN declaration sought to confer certain rights on Indigenous peoples so that they would not be exploited by anyone, and I am convinced after speaking to David James and others that if this Bill is called the Amerindian Bill and not the Indigenous People's Bill, the Amerindian people in this nation may not be able to approach international forums for redress and protection under the Indigenous People's Convention of the United Nations, which this Bill contravenes in numerous ways. Now if as Rodrigues says there is no difference in the name, then why this inexplicable resistance to changing the name on the Bill? One can only conclude that she is lying.

   The rights conferred on Indigenous people by this UN and other International Conventions are far reaching Ladies and Gentlemen, the Marxist PPP would never understand it, for example Article IX of the UN draft says that and I quote it "indigenous peoples shall be entitled: a) to establish and set in motion their own educational programmes, institutions and facilities b) to prepare and implement their own educational plans, programs, Curricula and materials, Article VII surprised even me, it says that and I quote section 2 of article VII "Indigenous Peoples are entitled to restitution in respect of the property of which they have been dispossessed, and where this is not possible compensation on a basis not less favourable than the standard of international law" it says that they should be given autonomy to pursue their economic, cultural, ancestral and other activities, not to be completely controlled by a Minister to the extent that if a village wants to build a toilet they have to get Ministerial permission, which this Bill seeks to do!

    Before we got independence in this country in 1966 the British government asked Burnham who came to power in 1964, to look into the ancestral lands of the Amerindians as a conditionality of our getting independence, and to this end a Commission was set up to identify and demarcate the Amerindian lands in this country, the 1965 Commission demarcated 24 thousand square miles of the 83,000 square miles of this country as Amerindian Ancestral lands, the Amerindians whose numbers are growing due to low migration and better health care these days now have only around 8 thousand square miles of Ancestral Lands, one third of what they should have.   

   In our supreme court at the present time there is action number 1114-W of 1998  in it  the captains of the Amerindian villages of Phillipi, Jawalla, Kako, Paruma, Waramadong and Kamarang  have sued the Attorney General of Guyana for, as they claim, taking away from them certain lands which they have enjoyed from time immemorial.

   Ladies and gentlemen they still thiefing the people's Ancestral Lands! This Bill on passing mandates every Amerindian to accept whatever area that is currently demarcated before any new lands are added to their respective village areas.

     Today the poverty within the Amerindian community is frightening, exploitation of Amerindians is unprecedented, Minister Shadik that paragon of competence does not understand the UN's definition of trafficking in persons, so people have been trafficking in Amerindians under her nose with impunity, are we strengthening the Amerindian Associations to help their brothers? No, that would be too humane, too intelligent, instead we have the President himself ridiculing the Amerindian People's Association in the media alleging that they are trying to rationalise their external monetary grants by making trouble for him and poor Ms. Rodrigues.

   No President in any Democracy anywhere should be allowed to make such statements about any organisation which is defending itself against what they perceive to be aggression by the government, especially when they are the indigenous peoples of the nation. Mr. Jagdeo must apologise to the APA and to David James for his unwarranted attack.

  Rodrigues must also apologise for her outrageous remarks about the name of the APA.  

   Ladies and gentlemen let us raise our voices and demand that this Bill be put where it belongs, in the garbage bin.