Revised Amerindian Act to be passed this year, President tells Toshaos
Stabroek News
February 14, 2004

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The Revised Amerindian Act is to be passed in the National Assembly this year, President Bharrat Jagdeo announced to more than 150 Toshaos in his opening address at the four-day National Toshaos Meeting at Hotel Tower this week.

The Amerindian Act goes back to 1951 and needs to be modernised, and government commenced the process in 2002 with countrywide consultations, the Government Information Agency (GINA) noted.

"While the revision or passage of laws does not require countrywide consultations, in this case the government recognised that it was important to consult with Amerindians so as to accommodate their recommendations as far as possible," GINA quoted the President as saying.

A technical team comprising lawyers in private practice and from the Attorney General's Chambers, non-governmental organisations, representatives of Amerin-dian communities, and the Ministry of Amerindian Affairs was set up in 2002 to conduct the consultations.

The President noted that the team consulted widely on the matter, holding consultations at 30 locations and involving 111 communities, GINA reported.

A summary of the recommendations has been circulated to various stakeholders, including the communities. The summary contains recommendations from the communities and residents could verify that their views are correctly represented. In addition, an international legal consultant has been hired to carry out a study of the summary.

After this, recommendations will be provided on the methodologies, concept and language that may be applied to the re-drafting of the Act.

"We are hoping that these (the responses) will be presented to the Cabinet shortly. Immediately thereafter, we hope that the re-drafting will commence and that this Bill/Act will be passed in the National Assembly in 2004," Jagdeo said.

He also assured the Toshaos that government will ensure that in Protected Areas, the traditional Amerin-dian way of life is guaranteed and at no time will Protected Areas be established on titled Amerindian lands, GINA reported.

"I have heard ...that we are going to take away your titled lands and make them into Protected Areas and you wouldn't be allowed to go into the forest. It is not so," the President asserted.

He pointed out that government's efforts to include Amerindians in the process will not cease at the consultations, but rather the administration intends to provide relevant training to local people, not only as wardens or rangers, but also as administrators to manage the Protected Areas, GINA added.