Toshaos’ views on just-concluded conference
Guyana Chronicle
February 15, 2004

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The four-day meeting of Amerindian Toshaos hosted by the Amerindian Affairs Ministry concluded on Friday, February 13 and Toshaos were asked to give their views on the meeting and to explain about their village and whether any development has been taking place. Here's what they had to say:

Hampton King, Monkey Mountain, Region Eight- I have been Captain of my Village for four years. In terms of development, I have tried my best and I think that the Government has done a lot in Monkey Mountain. They have already built a road, now we have the road from Lethem to Monkey Mountain. This has cut down our cost of living because before it was very high. We suffer a lot because we do not have employment. We usually do mining work to earn a living. There was a time when this was very expensive for us but now since the Government has built the road, things are better. We hope the Government will continue to look into the situation and build a proper road so that things would be better. Transportation-wise, if they can provide a truck for the community, so that we can get things a little more reasonable, or if there is a private one, then Monkey Mountain can be a central point for business. Other villages can come to Monkey Mountain and purchase goods.

Desmond Michael, Katoka Village, Region Nine-I am happy to be here and I have learnt much which I had never known before. It was not really easy learning but I want to thank the two tutors especially for teaching us to be JP's. I think it's a post that we are going to put into exercise when we get back to our villages. According to what was said, when our term of office is over, we will train others after us. Katoka is the home of over 500 people and it is a developing community. I want to really thank the Government, you know, for looking keenly at us and I hope in the future that we will be working cooperatively with them and we will be better people.

Gilbert Daniels, Sebai Village, Region One- I am glad that I have attended the Amerindian conference because for many reasons. I know that we have learnt things we have never known before and as leader I am given the assurance that what we learned here we will go.. and make our communities better. My community is situated about 65 miles from the Central Mabaruma and the Regional administration. It has a population of 365, and we earn our living by farming and lumbering. We have a Primary School, a health hut and four religious organizations there in the community, which I am so happy about. 95% of the residents are Christians so I really do not have any problems with brutality and such. I know that where development is concerned, we are achieving more than before. I have been the Captain for four years and presently we have applied for a Secondary School from SIMAP and I am sure that our application will be approved.

Wilson Laurentino, St. Ignatius, Region Nine-I am very happy to have attended this meeting. I have learnt a lot and I will go back and do a better job by helping other community members. Development in my community is slow but it is happening and I only hope that it will continue to go this way. I look forward for more meetings like this to come and clarify things.

David Wilson, Akawini, Region Two- I am very far away from this central point but I am very grateful to the Government for the time they have taken to get us here. I know that this training has been so good for us and I have learnt a great lot. I never knew the duties of a Justice of the Peace but at present I have a clear understanding of what they are. I will return to my village with a clear sense of duty as a Justice of the Peace. Presently my community has been developing, in the sense of infrastructure and other projects. This Government has assisted us a lot. We must say thanks to them and the SIMAP organization.

Francis Charles, Mashabo, and Region Two- For the past few days I have learnt a lot and I must thank the Government, especially the Ministry of Amerindian Affairs for bringing us out to this training programme. When I go to my community, I have a lot of things to do with the youth to bring them up in the kind of way that they would know and understand what is a JP. They would learn how to conduct themselves in a better way to try and be at peace. Since I was there, things were not going in the right way, and I think that after this training, things will be better. I must thank the Government and all the facilitators who are here for the training and everything. The Government has done a lot because I know it cost a lot for us to be here. I think my community will develop because of better leadership.

Morris Thomas, Campbelltown, Region Eight- It was very interesting. I have not had these ideas about the JP's before, but now I do. There was some development in my village early last year. We now have a large market in the village funded by SIMAP. We also have a large Teachers' Quarters in the village, also funded by SIMAP. We are seeking more assistance like what SIMAP is doing and I am sure there will be more progress in the future.

Isaac Williams, Micobie, Region Eight- I enjoyed the meeting and I learned a lot of things. I will take this training back to my community and do my duties in my village. I try my best with development in my village. After elections in April, I do not know if I will again be the Toshao, I hope that the aim of my community is to put me in for some more years to be their leader. If so, I will try to do my best for my community.

Eugene Isaacs, Toka Village, Region Nine- I am here to attend this meeting and like all meetings if you want to get something out of it, you will. Looking at it in that way, I believe that it did inform us a lot, though there were some concerns. For instance, we heard that there has not yet been an amendment to the sections of the law that concerns the JP, so we are not sure yet that we will be actually able to sign an affidavit. Other than that it was good to hear the functions of a JP and generally the meeting was good. In our community, we are trying to focus on youth development and to involve the elders since they would be able to facilitate and help to push things. We have presently a sports programme to keep our youth from being involved in negative activities like stealing and drugs. We expect that by getting them to burn energy we would not have a problem with STD's. In most of the Amerindian communities we find that the majority of youths are not employed. We thought that seeing that the Government has already put in infrastructure, we do not think we have to ask Government for everything, but we have to venture out and do projects and I think maybe the Government would come on board and assist. We need to do things for ourselves first, then maybe they would see that and come and help us.

Rosalie Couchman, Great Falls, Region Ten- For the past few days the exercise was good and I gained a lot because there were things that I did not know about the statutory body and all these things. We all agreed that we must have a statutory body as the Toshaos Council. At Mainstay/Wyaka last year, we had all agreed who we would put on the body. My village was unfortunate because we did not have a land title so I was not sworn in as a Justice of the Peace. But I was sworn in as a Toshao at Wyaka/ Mainstay. I am still taking the training because in case I am elected the Captain again, I would already know what to do.

In my village, building of a village office is in process. I hope that it is done by the end of March. Our village is not big. The population is small and because of jobs, our village population decreased. Parents of children who passed the Common Entrance moved them out of the village to attend school in Linden. Our main activities are fishing and farming. Now with the Indigenous Peoples Commission, things would be better.