NTC Conference 2018– says no word on resources being used for Amerindian development As the National Toshaos Council (NTC) 2018 Conference gets underway today, the Opposition People’s Progressive Party (PPP) has raised concerns that Government has not made any reference to funds being made available for developmental programmes for the Amerindian communities, be it community development plans, or any other developmental works in those communities.The opening of the NTC last yearThe Opposition said that it was particularly worrying as the Government’s abandonment of the Low Carbon Development Strategy (LCDS), and the initiatives designed to enhance national, and in particular, Amerindian development, has destroyed long years of work at all levels.“The Government’s often-mooted, vague Green growth strategy remains locked away in some backroom office, with snippets emerging infrequently as to what it will contain. Consultations across the country and with national stakeholders are still being awaited after three years,” the PPP said in a statement.The Opposition argued that under the LCDS, programmes were identified, including multi-year projects, the Amerindian Titling Project and the Amerindian Development Fund, which are fully funded, but have been stagnated due to coalition Government’s reluctance to move on these issues.They said, “The Government does not appear to share a common position with the Toshaos and the communities on an inclusive national development agenda. One cannot see any major intervention or innovation to address these issues since the change of Government.”It also made reference to Vice President and Indigenous Affairs Minister Sydney Allicock, who admitted before the Parliamentary Sectoral Committee on Natural Resources that no titles, or extensions of lands to Amerindian communities had been issued in the last three years.Further, the Opposition said it has noticed that ‘Free Prior and Informed Consent’ has been repeatedly honoured in the breach; one of the most glaring examples is the decision by the Government to establish the Commission of Inquiry (CoI) into Lands.“The promise by the Government to the NTC a year ago to put on hold the CoI’s examination of issues relating to Amerindian lands, pending discussions with the NTC, has been stalemated with no follow-up meetings and no amendment of the gazetted terms of reference to exclude the CoI’s continued scrutiny of all Amerindian communal lands titling,” it also noted.Local authorityAnother newer and even more worrying development, according to the PPP, has been the intrusive role of the Government in the declaration of new Local Authority Areas in Amerindian titled lands in violation of the 2006 Amerindian Act and the amendment to the Local Democratic Act 2006 which “removed any council established in an Amerindian community” from inclusion in LAAs.“This newer challenge is very serious. The Amerindian governance structure is separate and distinct layer from the LAAs. Without notice or consultations, the Government included Amerindian villages and communities in gazetted orders to establish these new LAAs.”Describing them as impositions on the Amerindian people, the PPP said it revealed the scant respect the Government held for the people and their elected leaders. Maicobe’s and Campbelltown’s opposition to their inclusion in the new township of Mahdia is striking.“We hope their voices will be heard and obeyed. The new Annai NDC is a glaring violation of the Amerindian Act with several titled villages becoming a Neighbourhood Democratic Council.”As such, the Party said it hoped that the NTC will ensure that there was clarity and commitment by the Government on these and other issues including the proposed amendments to the 2006 Amerindian Act. The PPP said it hoped that the revision of this Act does not harm Amerindian rights and ensures that there is the widest possible consultation in the communities across the country.It said the Government has failed to propose an alternative for the Hinterland Household Electrification Programme and after four to five years of the solar systems installed by the PPP Government, there is no maintenance plans to provide new batteries. It said communities that were listed and expecting to receive their solar systems in 2015 were still waiting as this project appeared to be abandoned by the Government.The US$17 million hinterland ICT programme, from the PPP’s LCDS, was also diverted to other targeted beneficiaries and the industrial solar units acquired for the computer hubs in 100 Amerindian villages were diverted for executive use, yet another blow to the Amerindian development agenda.“We anticipate that many of these issues, including many other concerns, will be deliberated on by and among the NTC participants as well as in the presence of the Government. As the week of discussions unfolds, it is critical for the Toshaos, Councillors and other representatives to recognise that you have two powerful instruments at your disposal – the Guyana Constitution and the 2006 Amerindian Act.”The Party reiterated that at the conclusion of the 2018 National Toshaos Conference, it hoped that there were clear and unequivocal commitments from the Government that land rights would be protected, that the principle of ‘free prior and informed consent’ will be followed in every case in their interaction with the Amerindian communities; that agreed-on projects for the development of communities will be accelerated, and delivered in a timely manner, and, that resources are allocated to assist the flood- affected communities in Regions Seven, Eight and Nine.