Tony James elected head of Amerindian People's Association
Resolution urges full ownership of ancestral lands
Stabroek News
May 29, 2002

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Twenty-four resolutions were passed at the 6th general assembly of the Amerindian Peoples Association (APA) held at Mainstay Holiday Resort in Region Two from last Saturday to Monday.

And Tony James of Region Nine was elected president of the new executive to manage the APA until the 7th general assembly. The vice president is Yvonne Fredericks from Region Two. Other members of the executive are secretary Earl Thomas from Region Two, assistant secretary/treasurer Anderson Hastings from Region Seven, and treasurer David James from Region One.

Committee members were drawn from Regions One, Two, Seven, Eight and Nine, while also elected were one women's representative and one youth representative, both from Region Seven.

The theme of the Assembly was "Amerindian peoples - determining our future in the new Millennium" and the slogan was "an indigenous life ensuring the continued existence of humanity and the environment through respect and understanding for mother earth."

The assembly was attended by representatives from Regions One, Two, Seven, Eight, and Nine as well as the Amazon Basin countries.

According to one of the co-ordinators, the resolutions will be forwarded to the Ministry of Amerindian Affairs, and the media, among other major players.

The resolutions focused on land rights, protected areas, the Amerindian Act and youth representation.

A land rights resolution stated that Amerindian peoples must have full control and full powers of ownership of their ancestral lands, and there must be no person or authority with the right or ability to deprive Amerindian peoples of their lands for any reason whatsoever.

It was also resolved that Amerindian land ownership must include full ownership and control of all subsurface minerals; the boundaries of Amerindian lands must be drawn with the full participation of the Amerindian people concerned and in a manner that is fully satisfactory to them; and there must be no "buffer zones" or "state lands" existing within Amerindian lands.

The assembly also called for the rights of Amerindian peoples to the ownership and full control of their ancestral lands to be recognised and protected in the Constitution. It further urged that Amerindian land ownership be recognised by the government through land titles and legislation.

Moreover, resolutions urged that Village Councils must have the power to make and enforce rules and regulations for the protection of Amerindian land ownership rights through legislation and government policies, and Amerindian peoples must have the right to own and manage protected areas in their traditional lands for the benefit of their peoples and for all Guyanese.

It was further resolved that being cognisant of the potential for a conflict of interest, Touchaus must not be employed by conservation organisations and/or other entities, and Amerindian communities must be informed and educated about protected areas before making any decisions regarding such areas, while also having opportunity to exercise the right to seek assistance and advice from Amerindian organisations and legal entities.

Recognising that the current rewriting of the Amerindian Act is fundamental to the future of Amerindian peoples, the Amerindian peoples must have equal and full participation in this process, another resolution stated.

"The new Amerindian Act must fully recognise and protect the rights of Amerindian peoples," one resolution said.

According to the assembly, the rights of Amerindian women must form a part of the new Amerindian Act.

And the National Touchaus Council/Amerindian organisations must set guidelines for the operations of the Indigenous Peoples Commission, whose chairperson must come from the national Touchaus body.

In addition, the APA decided that the Indigenous Peoples Commission must make provision for the use of technical advisors and other resource personnel to carry out its mandate.

There were also calls for national and regional Amerindian youth representation, the establishment of a forum for the discussion of ideas, sharing of experiences and strengthening of youth capacity, as well as national and regional representation of Amerindian women.