Over 11,000 firearm licences issued over 12-year period
Amerindians granted 118 from 280 applications
Stabroek News
July 12, 2002

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Of the 11,111 firearm licences issued to Guyanese between 1990 and the present 118 were issued to Amerindians from the 280 who applied.

Home Affairs Minister, Ronald Gajraj, provided this information in a written reply to questions by GAP/WPA parliamentarian Sheila Holder at Wednesday's sitting of the National Assembly.

The sitting, Holder told Stabroek News, was the first devoted to Opposition members' business in a long time. The absence of such sessions was one of the reasons given by the PNC/R for staying way from parliament as it did on Wednesday.

Holder said that the question was one of five she had submitted since last year, but which only found their way to the Order Paper as a result of her constant badgering of Parliament Office.

Gajraj's reply also disclosed that over this period seven licences were issued officially to seven Brazilians miners in possession of work permits, one to a Swedish miner and two to American miners.

He also said in the reply that there was prior consultation with Amerindians before permission was given for mining to be done in areas contiguous to Amerindian villages.

"Amerindians must give permission through their captains before a coastlander or non-national enters into a reserve area or reservation. This is also necessary with a joint venture for involving Amerindians and non-nationals."

Gajraj's reply disclosed too that between November 20, 1991 and May 31, 2002, 4,021 work permits and/or residency permits were issued to non-Guyanese to operate gold and diamond mines in the interior. The yearly breakdown he provided was as follows: 1990 - 44; 1991 - 320; 1992 - 393; 1993 - 203; 1994 - 243; (no figure was provided for 1995); 1996 - 188; 1997 - 253; 1998 - 249; 1999 - 225; 2000 - 397; 2001 - 984, and to May 2002 - 522.

The reply indicated that the ministry could not at this time say "with any satisfactory degree of accuracy" how many non-nationals by country are living in Georgetown "since persons change residential addresses without notice to the Ministry of Home Affairs and/or any of its constituent agencies."

It said too that it was impossible to provide accurate and up-to-date figures in respect of non-national gold and diamond miners in Regions Seven (Mazaruni/ Cuyuni), Eight (Potaro/ Siparuni) and Nine (Upper Takutu/Upper Essequibo). "These miners are in the habit of moving from one area to another as the shouts for gold and diamonds are announced." It said that the available and approximate figures from the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission are that there are 310 in Region One (Barima/Waini); 368 in Region Seven; 100 in Region Eight; and 64 in Region Nine.