Rodrigues gives assurance to continue Amerindian lands demarcation
Guyana Chronicle
January 14, 2002

MINISTER of Amerindian Affairs, Ms Carolyn Rodrigues has given the assurance that Government is committed to completing the land demarcation excerise in Amerindian communities.

In an interview with GINA (Government Information Agency), she acknowledged that the process moved “very slowly” in 2001 and expressed concern at the slow pace.

But she said last year’s late National Budget presentation and inclement weather could have caused some communities not to have received titles yet.

The delineation began in 1976 but serious work did not start until 1997 and, of the more than 100 in which Amerindians live, only 75 communities are legally recognised, GINA said.

The agency said about 30 have already been separated but some have refused to accept their titles.

Seven communities had agreed for Government to move ahead with the separation but, subsequently, problems arose, as some, mainly in Region One (Barima/Waini), seemed uncertain about what they wanted, GINA said.

Minister Rodrigues said community leaders were also largely responsible for the failure to complete the separating.

She said:” At one time, they wanted the surveying process to go ahead and another time they did not want it and this went on for quite a long time,” she explained.

That problem arose mainly in Assakata, Kwebanna and Little Kaneballi also known as Santa Cruz, Rodrigues disclosed.

“We had those communities agreeing. Then they were four identical letters from the communities saying that they don’t want to have demarcation carried out. They agreed again that they want to have it, after some information was shared with them and then, subsequent to that, there was a disagreement again,” she divulged.

Minister Rodrigues said she and other Government officials spoke with the intended beneficiaries on several occasions and they agreed to the procedure but some others might have influenced them otherwise.

She said the project was executed “fairly smoothly” in Massara and Yupukari in Region Nine (Upper Takutu/Upper Essequibo) where it is in progress at Karasabai.

Rodrigues anticipates it would work well in future but pointed out that there has to be further consultations and common agreement with the targeted communities.

“I am hoping, this year, that we could have some agreement with the majority on how we can proceed with the issue,” she said, adding that, if it is not done, the difficulty would remain unresolved for another 20 years.

She said Government has undertaken a number of consultations with communities because the latter have to agree before the job can proceed.

Rodrigues said Government is willing to extend Amerindian lands but that could only be done after the boundaries are identified.

She said, sometimes, she feels that people really do not want the land issue to be resolved.

Rodrigues said there are a number of other issues to be addressed but she cannot deal with all at the same time and has to collaborate with different Ministries to redress the concerns and promote Amerindian development while continuing the demarcation this year.