Lincoln Lewis slams `wanton abuse' of Amerindians
Urges PM to hold extensive inquiry

By Desiree Jodah
Stabroek News
August 5, 2000

GTUC General Secretary Lincoln Lewis has written to Prime Minister Samuel Hinds expressing disgust at the report of the beating of a number of Amerindians by miners and police in the Upper Mazaruni and called for an investigation into aspects of the mining culture in the interior.

" is yet another disturbing example of abuse of the poor and dispossessed by the strong and influential in circumstances where the former secures no redress which is commonplace in our society," Lewis stated in the letter which was also copied to President Bharrat Jagdeo and Amerindian Affairs Minister Vibert De Souza.

Lewis described the incident as a microcosm of the phenomenon of physical and emotional abuse of Amerindians by coastlanders. A group of Amerindians were allegedly beaten last month by policemen and miners after they were accused of stealing "matting" from a dredge. Matting is used to separate gold from dredged earth.

The Prime Minister had condemned the incident and police ranks were transferred from the area and several persons arrested.

The GTUC urged that an impartial inquiry be done and severe sanctions be applied against the guilty parties.

Lewis noted that there were many stories told of the invasion of Amerindian communities by itinerant miners and mining companies, the physical exploitation of male Amerindians, and the sexual abuse of females.

Stating that there appeared to be a reluctance to afford Amerindians the status they are entitled as indigenous peoples, the GTUC general secretary said: "....coastal politicians find it convenient to pay lip service to the significance of the Amerindian dimension to our country's history."

Lewis said he was of the belief that some miners behave in a fashion usually associated with slave masters and it was the Amerindians who often bear the brunt of this behaviour.

It would appear that the police there were guilty of misinterpreting their role at interior locations, he said.

With reference to comments made by Hinds pertaining to the incident, Lewis said is was a gross understatement to state that the police sometimes got "carried away."

Nor could police frustration over their lack of progress in solving cases justify those "policing methods" which citizens have come to know and fear, he said.

The government should use the incident to start a "sincere initiative" to put an end to the wanton abuse of Amerindians, Lewis stated. He said for the initiative to be meaningful it should include an investigation into the use of Amerindians as "helpers" at urban locations, and the disruption of Amerindian communities by coastlanders.

In the case that sparked Lewis's letter, Wanda Jonah and Bentley Jones sustained severe injuries and had to be brought to the city for further medical treatment.

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