Government drafts guidelines on Amerindian affairs

by Andrew Richards
Stabroek News
October 28, 1999

Government, with the assistance of the Caribbean Institute for Development and Administration (CARICAD), has prepared a draft of guidelines on Amerindian affairs under the Public Administration Project.

The guidelines will be used to administer affairs in Amerindian villages and were done in consultation with the indigenous people, Principal Regional Development Officer (PRDO) in the Amerindian Affairs Department of the Office of the President, Lloyd Andrews, told Stabroek News recently.

Andrews said that regulations established many years ago required non-Amerindians seeking to enter a reservation first to be granted permission from the department. He noted that there was a proliferation of non-Amerindians in some Ameridian areas, especially those surrounding townships like Lethem, Mabaruma and Kamarang.

He said because of the proximity of these villages to the government compounds in these locations, it was difficult to monitor the movement of non-Amerindians.

Minister of Amerindian Affairs, Vibert De Souza, in the foreword to the guidelines, said it was the first comprehensive document of its kind and attempted to outline government policy, the existing legal framework, and the practical procedures that related to the administration of Amerindian communities in Guyana.

He said the document had been developed at a time when the Amerindian Affairs Department was being reorganised under the Office of the President and at a time when such issues as Amerindian village administration and law relating to Amerindians were being re-examined by the Amerindian leadership and communities.

The document, called 'The Operations Manual on Local Government for Amerindian Communities', is designed to provide information and guidance to Amerindian village councils in the conduct of their affairs at three levels: (i) within their local communities, (ii) as they relate to the regional administrative system and central ministries and (iii) with other government bodies, and non-governmental and community-based organisations.

In the preface, it was stated that consultations were held as part of a workshop in Region One and at two workshops in Region Nine. The manual was also reviewed at a special roundtable discussion with a select group of long-serving Amerindian village captains and resource persons in Georgetown, and at a joint seminar with representatives from government agencies. Officials from the Ministry of Local Government and Regional Development and the Amerindian Affairs Department also contributed to the final output.

The local government department in each region should ensure that each Amerindian village council is in receipt of guidelines which are available at the Amerindian Affairs Department.

The guidelines deal with the functions and responsibilities of the village councils such as elections and administrative procedures. The regulations also look at how the village councils fit in the network consisting of the Neighbourhood Democratic Coucils, Non-Government Organisations and the Community-Based Organisations. The manual also lists how the Amerindian Affairs Department contributes to the process of strengthening local government in Amerindian communities.

There are 76 legally established Amerindian villages which have captains and councils spread throughout Guyana.

A © page from:
Guyana: Land of Six Peoples