Amerindians must be free to form own council
-conference tells government
June 27, 2003
The just-concluded Common-wealth conference on Indige-nous Rights has sent a message to the government that the Toshaos of Indigenous communities here have the right to form themselves into a body and invite whomever they feel comfortable with.
Additionally, the decision made by the Toshaos to form a national council must be respected and remain free of political interference and misleading publicity. A recent Toshaos conference had drawn criticism from the government which had described it as not being transparent. The government had also raised concerns about the invitation list to the meeting.
The three-day conference also said that the government must take into consideration the concerns of Indigenous Peoples when attempting to create Protected Area Systems in and around indigenous lands. No protected areas should be established without the full and informed consent of the affected peoples and without a prior resolution of land and resource rights.
These were some of the recommendations contained in a report coming out of the conference titled the Regional Meeting of Experts on Indige-nous Rights in the Canadian and Commonwealth Carib-bean Region, held at the Tower Hotel. The conference was co-ordinated by the Com-monwealth Policy Studies Unit, a United Kingdom-based body set up to research the condition of indigenous persons within the Common-wealth of Nations. The Amer-indian Peoples Association (APA) collaborated on the event.
The recommendations will be circulated at the Common-wealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) to be held in Abuja, Nigeria in Decem-ber.
A press release coming out of the conference set out recommendations for the governments of Belize, Canada and Dominica in addition to Guyana.
The release recommended that accredited Indigenous Peoples organisations should have access to the peoples and processes of the CHOGMs. These heads should meet with tribal peoples before and during CHOGM.
The conference acknowledged and expressed appreciation for the initial efforts of Caricom to address the rights of Indigenous Peoples in its Charter of Civil Society and urged that Caricom give its full attention to ensuring that member states observe the commitments undertaken therein.
One of the statements read, “we urge the Government of Guyana to honour commitments made to the United Nations Human Rights Commission (UNHCR) to ensure that the revised Amerindian Act is compatible with Article 1 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.”
The conference also called for the ratification of the National Development Strate-gy 2001 - 2010 with specific reference to the chapter on Amerindian development.
According to the press release, delegates also ex-pressed concern that the Guyana High Commission in Canada had refused the right of an indigenous Canadian to travel to the meeting on his Haudenosaunee passport.
The release added that the meeting sought to bring an end to the “invisibility” of indigenous peoples in Canada and the Commonwealth Caribbean.