Amerindian captains welcome Prince Charles
--seize opportunity to highlight concerns

Stabroek News
February 29, 2000

A contingent of Amerindian captains from Region Eight took the opportunity on Sunday during a visit by Prince Charles to the Kaieteur National Park to highlight issues which they feel are not being addressed by government.

The captains bore placards welcoming the Prince of Wales upon his arrival at the Kaieteur airstrip. When he disembarked the aircraft, the Prince was taken to view the scenic Kaieteur Falls accompanied by Amerindian Affairs Minister Vibert De Souza and Fisheries, Crops and Livestock Minister Satyadeow Sawh. And upon his return to the airstrip, Prince Charles was introduced to the Amerindian captains who all felt honoured by his presence.

But after the Prince had concluded his brief chat with them and was making his way back to the aircraft, the captains unfurled a banner which read: "Our land is not for sale or give away" and turned over their welcoming placards some of which stated: "Honour independence agreement, recognise our land rights", "We expect meaningful consultation in 2000", "No restriction to our movement, respect our culture" and "Kaieteur is sacred to us".

Speaking to Stabroek News after the Prince departed, Captain Matheson Williams of Paramakatoi said the Amerindians had no quarrel with him but wanted to use his visit to highlight the inaction by government in addressing issues of concern to them.

Williams stated that the Amerindians were not told as a matter of formality of the Prince's visit to the Kaieteur National Park.

According to him, the Amerindian leaders had travelled to the area, some for as long four days, to attend an Area Council meeting from February 19 to 20 and while there learned of the visit by Prince Charles.

"Basically the Amerindian people just want it to be noted that we need to resolve the long outstanding land rights issue. We also demand the right to consultation in issues affecting us. We are no longer a silent and invisible people," Matheson stated.

Two pressing issues the Amerindian leaders are asking to be addressed are the amendment to the Kaieteur National Park Act and the granting of a gold mining concession, which land includes those of several Amerindian villages to Migrate Mining Ltd, a South African company.

Matheson called on the government to acknowledge the Amerindian peoples' invitation to forge a partnership in looking after the well-being of the people of the hinterland.

These and other issues were discussed at the National Amerindian Captains Council held last year and were communicated to the government and on many subsequent occasions via the Amerindian Peoples Association, the Amerindian leader stated.

He disclosed that the Amerindian community is still organising a march from the Rupununi to the capital city on the coast to further bring the issues to the fore.

Other captains present on Sunday for the Prince's visit hailed from far-reaching areas such as Kato, Taruka, Kurukubaru, Kanapang, Itabac, Kamana, Kopinang, Waipa, Tuseneng, Chenapau and Karisparu.