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|Speedy release of GRIF Funds needed - to ensure continuity of demarcation and land titling projects, says Amerindian Affairs Minister|
|Tuesday, 07 August 2012 21:50|
THIS year, enhanced focus will be placed on the implementation of the presidential grants and national hinterland development programmes, while the ministry’s strategic plan (2011/2012) will see emphasis being placed on titling, demarcation and land extensions.
To facilitate the latter, there is need for the speedy release of the Guyana REDD+Investment Fund (GRIF) funds, Minister of Amerindian Affairs, Pauline Sukhai said Monday, at the opening ceremony of the National Toshaos Council (NTC) meeting at the Guyana International Conference Centre, Liliendaal, Greater Georgetown.
“Two years on, and we are now closer to conclusion, notwithstanding the tremendous pressure placed on the ministry to respond to queries as to when lands are to be titled and demarcated, also reminding us that the village councils followed all the legislative processes, before submitting applications,” she said.
Minister Sukhai stated that it is most offensive to government when Amerindians’ right to land is infringed by delays, when land is a critical component to the cultural and economic well-being of Amerindians.
Held under the theme, “Establishing Strategic Approaches and Alliances for Sustaining Amerindian Development”, the Sixth NTC Monday commenced attracting toshaos, village leaders and councillors from far-flung communities.
Minister Sukhai pointed to the fact that the NTC forum, which seeks to have Amerindian issues addressed, is also essential, as it demonstrates the openness and accessibility of the government.
Alluding to accountability, Minister Sukhai stated that the Administration can boast of addressing manifesto commitments, and has over the years transformed promises into programmes to better the lives of indigenous people, despite limited resources.
“Efforts dedicated by this government to build on achievements attained with respect to the improvements to the social and infrastructural development across the hinterland have today resulted in greater preparedness by villages to pursue the implementation of sustained economic activity,” she told the gathering.
Throughout the years, the Ministry of Amerindian Affairs has been committing huge sums for the implementation of village priority projects, such as agriculture and tourism.
“This move reinforces government’s support to Amerindian participation in decision-making and shaping their village development. It also establishes the recognition of the capacities and empowerment of Amerindian leaders and villagers,” she noted.
Moving ahead, the Ministries of Culture and Amerindian Affairs will be collaborating to further accelerate the development of sports and Amerindian language and culture through the completion of dictionaries in the nine Amerindian languages.
Minister Sukhai also called for greater attention to be paid to sustainable management and utilisation of forests and other natural resources owned by Amerindians, as the benefits derived will be invested into the further development of villages.
Governance and accountability
The Amerindian Affairs Minister called for full disclosure of village affairs at general meetings, noting that the ministry recognises the weaknesses in village administration, particularly with regard to accountability.
“We continue to receive complaints and we have identified instances too, which for us is a little too many. I therefore call on the village toshaos to let us, in this term’s work, correct this issue, since it puts pressure on the scarce financial resources that have to be diverted to conduct village audits when they are not planned,” she said.
Village rules also play an integral role in administrating good governance; and to date, 10 hinterland communities have submitted their draft rules. Four have since been returned by the Ministry of Legal Affairs, for final review and consent.
Meanwhile, outgoing NTC Chairperson, Yvonne Pearson, who also addressed the gathering, left a strong message for collaboration and commitment of leaders, so as to ensure that development takes place.
She stated that regardless of challenges which may arise from time to time, government has always been supportive of Amerindian development, which is reflected in the many planned policies and programmes at the village level.
“We are here to build bridges, to narrow gaps, to raise our concerns at the right forum…it is time we rise up and plan our strategy….we were elected by our people to represent the cause of our people and so we have the opportunity to ensure development takes place at all times,” Pearson said.
Development cannot be established, she reminded the leaders, if participation and humility are not present, and she encouraged toshaos to make smart decisions and to not be carried away by negativity which may arise from time to time.
Speaking on criticism in the past which stated that the rights of Amerindians are not respected, Pearson challenged the critics to say in what way that is so.
“We cannot continue to close our eyes and say nothing is happening...if we do that, we are not being true to ourselves,” she said. (GINA)
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