Thursday, April 15, 2010

A comprehensive rebuttal of the letter sent to the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation by AFC front group APA.

Peter Persaud: THE Guyanese people, particularly the Amerindian community must know that the APA sent a letter to the Peace, Gender, and Democracy Department of the Norwegian Agency for Development cooperation calling for, inter alia: The amendment of the present Amerindian Act 2006 “as a prior condition to any financing of further LCDS/REDD + Activities”.

The letter was dated March 10, 2010 and signed by six Toshaos and 15 known APA activists. The letter stated the following:

(a) “The undersigned are writing to express a number of concerns that we have about the Guyana-Norway Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) of November 9, 2009 and the larger low carbon development strategy/REDD + Plans (LCDS/REDD+) currently being elaborated by the government of Guyana. These concerns all relate to the rights of indigenous peoples and how these rights will be guaranteed and protected in the implementation of the MOU and the larger LCDS/REDD+ Plans. These concerns are crucially important to the sustainability of LCDS/REDD+, but have yet to be adequately addressed. While we fully support culturally appropriate sustainable development and reducing carbon emissions, we do not believe that the LCDS/REDD+ initiatives should be implemented (yet again) at the expense of the indigenous peoples rights”.

(b) Our concern can be divided into the following categories:

(1) the lack of an adequate legal framework that recognises, respects and protects the rights of indigenous peoples in accordance with Guyana’s International Human rights obligations and
(2) the absence of any meaningful participation by indigenous peoples in decision-making on the LCDS/REDD+ to date. “The APA recommended that in order to correct the fundamental problems described above, there is urgent need to amend the Amerindians Act and to carry out an independent and impartial review of all land titling decisions made to date.”

I wish to raise the following in relation to the APA’s letter to the Norwegian Agency for development and cooperation.

(1) The APA’s letter is political, wicked, mischievous, damaging, misleading and presumptuous designed to deliberately bring to a halt the LCDS/REDD+ process in Guyana. The time has come for the APA to be placed under the microscope by the people of Guyana and more particularly the Amerindian community to determine its patriotism and its seriousness in promoting the development of indigenous peoples communities in Guyana. The APA has quickly reached the stage where it has become a subversive organisation with foreign financial support, every time there is a national project earmarked for Guyana’s hinterland where indigenous peoples can benefit, the APA always moves against these projects citing “indigenous peoples concerns” even though the communities would endorse or support these projects. I am saying that is high time the APA be stopped for being counterproductive to the development of Guyana’s indigenous peoples.

(2) The Norwegian agency for development cooperation must recognise that the APA’s letter has no basis of authority or mandate. Can (6) Toshaos out of a total of 97 elected toshaos make a decision to stop Norway from funding the implementation of the LCDS/REDD+ process in Guyana? Can six Toshaos out of total of 97 elected Toshaos make a decision or speak out on behalf of 91 Toshaos without their prior knowledge and consent? Can six Toshaos speak out on behalf the National Toshao Council which is the umbrella body for the 97 Toshaos in Guyana? The Norwegian Agency for Development must know as well that the six Toshaos are APA activists working on a conflict of interest situation. The peace, gender and democracy development cooperation must therefore seriously examine the democratic principles applied by the APA in making its decision for Norway to withhold funding for the LCDS process in Guyana.

(3) The Amerindian Act 2006, the Legislation that governs the Amerindian villages and communities in Guyana does recognise and protect the rights of Guyana’s indigenous peoples. The Amerindian Act 2006 mentions that it is “an Act to provide for the recognition and protection of the collective rights of Amerindians villages and communities, the granting of land to Amerindian villages and communities and the promotion of good governance in Amerindians villages and communities.” The Amerindian Act 2006 became the end product of intensive hearings in 31 host communities covering 112 Amerindian villages. Recommendations were received by a technical team and an international consultant on indigenous peoples rights worked with the Ministry of Amerindian Affairs to review the recommendations submitted and was mandated to produce a report detailing language for the new act and relevant international comparisons both legislation and policy. The revised act was drafted based on the recommendations received, The International consultants report and along with other relevant documentation. The APA is claiming that Guyana does not have a legal framework that adequately recognises, respects and protects the rights of indigenous peoples in accordance with Guyana’s Human obligations, this claim by the APA is no doubt designed to bamboozle and hood wink the Norwegian Agency for development cooperation. Can anyone in Guyana honestly say that there are widespread human rights violations in Guyana against its indigenous peoples? Can the 97 indigenous Toshaos of Guyana honestly say if there are victims of land displacement or dispossession? Prior to the intervention of the LCDS process in Guyana no indigenous community raised concerns over the Amerindian Act 2006 which is the legal framework governing Amerindian villages and communities.

(4) The claim made by the APA that there is an absence of meaningful participation of indigenous peoples in decision making on LCDS/REDD+ to date. This is a monumental lie. All five indigenous representatives serving on the LCDS/MSCC are required to make their decisions on all matters regarding the LCDS and REDD+ initiatives. The APA could have also played a meaningful and constructive role on the MSCC but they bluntly rejected President Jagdeo’s invitation and preferred to be destructive an mischievous to a model Guyana and Norway will be creating in the fight against Global climate change where Guyana will be receiving incentives to pursue a low carbon economy while combating climate change. Through REDD+ initiatives. The LCDS process has adopted the FPIC standard for Amerindian communities to ‘opt in’ the strategy. If the six Toshaos who are APA activists and who are signatories to the letter sent by the APA to the Norwegian Agency for development cooperation do not want their forests to be part of the strategy so be it. After all this is the beauty about the FPIC principle. The APA’s detractions and vendetta against Guyana’s LCDS therefore have become totally unnecessary and time wasting.

(5) Section 38 of the Amerindian Act 2006 establishes the National Toshao Council. The NTC is a body corporate comprising all Toshaos in the country of Guyana. Ms Yvonne Pearson, the Toshao of Mainstay/Wyaka village was duly elected the chairman of the NTC at the last Toshao conference. She therefore has the right to speak on behalf of all Toshaos in the country, not the APA. Ms Pearson was a former and key leader in the APA, but she has since delinked herself from that body and is presently playing a constructive role on the LCDS/MSCC. This is why also the APA is disgruntled and mischievous. Amerindian human rights lawyer Mr. David James is also serving on the MSCC. APA where are you?

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