President presents 'absolute' land titles to Toshaos
By Mark Ramotar
February 21, 2004
PRESIDENT Bharrat Jagdeo yesterday proudly presented the Toshaos of Baramita and Konashen with 'absolute land grants' for Amerindians living in those two remote communities in Guyana.
According to the Guyanese Head of State, the land titles were the largest ever given out in the history of Guyana and serves to tangibly demonstrate the PPP Civic Government's commitment to the development and well being of Amerindians in Guyana.
At a simple but historic ceremony at the Office of the President yesterday, the two Amerindian Toshaos - Johnny Simon of Baramita and Paul Chekema of Konashen - were visibly overwhelmed with joy as they received their certificate (land grants) from a smiling President Jagdeo.
Amerindian Affairs Minister, Ms. Carolyn Rodrigues, in remarks prior to the actual handing over of the titles, said the simplicity of the handing over ceremony "should not take away from the importance of what our government is doing today".
"At a time when indigenous issues are taking on greater importance in the global developmental process and sustainable utilization of resources is actively being promoted, Guyana is standing out with its approach in addressing the Indigenous land issue," Rodrigues contended.
The two Amerindian Toshaos - Johnny Simon of Baramita (second left) and Paul Chekema of Konashen (right) pose with President Bharrat Jagdeo and Amerindian Affairs Minister, Ms. Carolyn Rodrigues during yesterday's ceremony at the Office of the President.
"As we say in Guyana, we are not just talking the talk, we are also walking the walk," she posited.
The Amerindian Affairs Minister also indicated that while the history of our country may vary and solutions have to be found taking into consideration that history, no doubt we can learn from each other. As such, she said the Government of Guyana's action today may very well have an impact on what happen in other countries. "But for me, what is more important is the fact that this is a good example of what can be achieved when the ingredients of cooperation, trust, respect and goodwill are all included in the quantities required," Rodrigues asserted.
Konashen or Wai Wai village as it is commonly known is situated in the extreme south of Guyana in Region 9. The community has a population of approximately 200 Wai Wais. Due to its location, this community has little contact with the coast and is one that is deeply rooted in the indigenous traditions.
Baramita is located in the opposite direction in Region One and has a population of more than 1500 Carib residents. Access to both communities is mostly by aircraft but it should be noted that Konashen can be accessed from Aishalton by travelLing for approximately 10 days and Baramita on the other hand can be accessed by walking from Matthew's Ridge for several hours.
Yesterday's presentation saw Konashen being the largest Amerindian community in Guyana in terms of land mass. Baramita would be the largest in Region One.
Rodrigues also indicated that the "absolute grants" that were given to Baramita and Konashen were given without preconditions. "It is usually said that Amerindians are protectors of the environment and this is true for many communities. However, of recent I have witnessed destruction and robbery due to bad agreements made," she observed.
In this regard, she told the two Toshaos to exercise the necessary precaution to ensure that these lands are used in a sustainable manner in order for future generations to benefit.
She also thanked the Guyana Forestry Commission, the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission and the Guyana Lands and Surveys Commission for working together with the Amerindian Affairs Ministry to bring the process to completion.