Should the Amerindians be protected?
Stabroek News
March 1, 2002

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Dear Editor,

It appears that some Amerindians claim Guyana by virtue of the fact that their ancestors were the original and sole inhabitants of this country thousands of years ago, as stated by J.B James of Santa Rosa in his letter.

I deny that being original inhabitants of a territory entitles a people to sovereign rights in that territory in perpetuity. In whatever land we can think of on planet earth human beings have always been displacing or absorbing one another. It has happened in Turkey and in Egypt, in North and South America, in Judea, in Africa the world's lands belong to the world's people.

Black people and East Indians, for instance, did not deliberately extinguish, absorb or exclude the Amerindians from Guyana. the Amerindians experienced an historical misfortune. And this not only in Guyana, but all over South America and in the Caribbean islands. They lost control of their territories to a more vigorous and aggressive people. In Australia and in New Zealand the same thing has happened.

Black people too, as descendants of Africans did not have pleasant experiences in Guyana. And up to this day Black people have an uphill struggle to hold their own in Guyana and so do the East Indians. Both people, as we know, were drafted to this territory against their will or under conditions which limited choice to the minimum.

Consequently when Mr J.B. James asks for a protector for Amerindians, as he did in his letter (23/2/2002) his claim may have some merit but it is not entirely reasonable. If the Amerindians must always be protected, then it implies that they are not full citizens of Guyana, they cannot stand competition, they are not evolving to the point where they can take control of their political destiny. To need protection is an admission of weakness. And if you are weak how can you lay claim to territory? How can you form a government or associate with a government?

In consequence Amerindian weakness is not a pleasure to me, and it must be a cause of concern to successive governments of Guyana. Should the Amerindians be protected? Yes, if they call for protection they should get it. But they should cease to claim that Guyana belongs to them. Guyana belongs to the people who live in Guyana.

International law would not or cannot sanction a formula in which aboriginal inhabitants of a territory have prescriptive rights to all areas of that territory for all time.

Finally, to be confined to reservations would be safe for the Amerindian community but it does not enhance self respect, neither would it guarantee respect from the other races of Guyana.

Either the Amerindians would have to be perpetually dependent or they would need to assert their independence.

Yours faithfully,

Prince Michael