Vice President, Dr. Bharrat Jagdeo, said 20 percent of Guyana’s land should go to its Amerindian peoples.
He revealed this during a recent interview with the New York based Vice News.
“If you look at the land policy of the government, when we assumed office in 1992, indigenous people had titled lands, about 6 per cent of Guyana. By the time we left office in 2015, we had titled indigenous communities with land that amounted to over 14 per cent of Guyana… So, six to 14 per cent. That is our track record.”
“We believe that ultimately, about 20 per cent of Guyana, the total country, will be Amerindian titled lands, and we’re in the process of ensuring that that happens, considering our Amerindian population is probably about 10 per cent of the country.”
He reminded that Guyana is among some countries that have granted subsurface rights to Amerindian communities.
“So they had rights over the forest but never the minerals below ground. So now they have subsurface rights as part of the legislation that we passed.”
Dr. Jagdeo said that this gives communities the right and opportunity to live off the land and utilise the resources, if they wish.
He added that it is for those communities to decide whether they want to live a separate way of life, or whether they want to integrate with the rest of society, and that the government will support them no matter what.
The Vice President had cause to defend the government’s record against an allegation that there is a land related conflict between an Amerindian community and miners. He acknowledged that there may be individual issues arising on the ground, adding that government will handle those as they come. However, he said that it is important to look at the government’s policy record when judging its performance on Amerindian issues.
“Now whether we’d have individual problems on the ground, in many communities, yes, it happens in every country, but if you’re going to characterise a country’s treatment of indigenous people based on the occasional problems you have all the time, and I don’t want to say that this happened, but this typically happens when people come in from abroad and they interview, they always try to make the country look, like, backwater.”
He said if anyone wants to understand the developing world, they should immerse themselves to get the full picture, instead of listening to one testimony and running with it.
Discussing the PPP/C’s record in government on Amerindian issues, Dr. Jagdeo said that Guyana is among the most progressive countries in the world. (Department of Public Information).