De­politi­cised toshaos coun­cil still work­ing to­wards full in­de­pen­dence

-out­go­ing chair­man

Stabroek News Sunday - - NEWS -

He was sup­ported in his view by Vice Chair­man Lenox Shu­man and Sec­re­tary Eyon Boyal.

Fred­er­icks and Boyal will not be on the new NTC ex­ec­u­tive as they will not be el­i­gi­ble to con­test the toshaos elec­tions due from mid-May to midJune, hav­ing al­ready served two terms. Shu­man, the Toshao of Pakuri (St Cuth­bert’s) vil­lage, has served one term but has in­di­cated that he will not be seek­ing re-elec­tion.

“It was a strug­gle to reach where we are today,” Fred­er­icks said dur­ing the in­terview, which was held at the NTC’s Camp and Quam­ina streets, Ge­orge­town of­fice.

And while they have a long way to go in en­abling the NTC to re­main neu­tral af­ter they demit of­fice, Fred­er­icks said they have a plan in place which they were not keen on shar­ing.

Shu­man noted that there was a move even be­fore they were sworn into their re­spec­tive of­fices in 2015 to cap­ture the NTC and en­sure that it re­mained un­der the con­trol of the ad­min­is­tra­tion of the day.

“That was man­i­fested when an ad­vi­sor (name pro­vided) to Min­is­ter [Sid­ney] Al­lic­ock called the NTC ex­ec­u­tive to a meet­ing and started to dic­tate what we could and could not do,” he ex­plained.

Shu­man said one of the things the ad­vi­sor ad­vised against when the NTC ex­ec­u­tive brought it up was de­vel­op­ing its own rules and pro­ce­dures. Shu­man said they ar­gued against it, not­ing that pro­vi­sion was made for the rules and reg­u­la­tions in Sec­tion 41 of the Amerindian Act.

Be­cause of their stance on neu­tral­ity and in­de­pen­dence, Boyal said, “We had to re­mind this ad­min­is­tra­tion that they were com­ing with change and that peo­ple voted for change. If [they] are go­ing to con­tinue to direct and con­trol the NTC, like the pre­vi­ous PPP ad­min­is­tra­tion, that meant there was go­ing to be no real change.”

They re­minded the author­i­ties at the Min­istry of Indige­nous Peo­ples’ Af­fairs (MOIPA) that it was in President David Granger’s 100-day plan to de­politi­cise the NTC. “When we were elected, they wanted to take us down the same road,” Boyal said.

To move out of the con­trol of the MOIPA, Fred­er­icks said they ob­tained a small of­fice space.

In 2016, the NTC made a re­quest for a plot of land to build a sec­re­tariat in keep­ing with the Amerindian Act, which pro­vides for the NTC to es­tab­lish a sec­re­tariat.

About a half-acre land was iden­ti­fied at the Sophia Ex­hi­bi­tion Cen­tre and the land was mea­sured by the Guyana Lands and Sur­veys Com­mis­sion. The land iden­ti­fied was highly pub­li­cised with a turn­ing of the sod cer­e­mony by the President. Nev­er­the­less, the NTC is still await­ing doc­u­ments to the land be­fore it can build its fa­cil­ity.

“We are talk­ing to lo­cal and in­ter­na­tional part­ners, seek­ing fund­ing to es­tab­lish this sec­re­tariat and some of these part­ners are in­ter­ested in pro­vid­ing sup­port but they are ask­ing us to show them own­er­ship of the land,” Fred­er­icks said.

Even though rep­re­sen­ta­tion had been made sev­eral times at sev­eral lev­els for doc­u­men­ta­tion of own­er­ship of the land, Shu­man said, “Maybe, there is some de­gree of in­com­pe­tence along the line. Maybe there is a dis­con­nect or maybe, the peo­ple be­low him are un­will­ing to deal with any­thing as it re­lates to indige­nous peo­ples.”

An­other achieve­ment, Fred­er­icks said, was the NTC build­ing re­la­tion­ships with all the lo­cal indige­nous or­gan­i­sa­tions.

“It was never like that be­fore. We opened up the doors. At our con­fer­ence in 2015, we in­vited all the lo­cal or­gan­i­sa­tions be­cause we could not claim that we were rep­re­sent­ing the indige­nous peo­ples of Guyana and then just op­er­at­ing in iso­la­tion,” he added.

Out­side of the indige­nous or­gan­i­sa­tions, he said, they built re­la­tion­ships with the In­ter-Amer­i­can De­vel­op­ment Bank and Con­ser­va­tion In­ter­na­tional (CI). They also signed a mem­o­ran­dum of understanding with CI based on strate­gic co­op­er­a­tion in areas of com­mon in­ter­est. That MoU has since been ben­e­fi­cial to the NTC, he said.

Joel Fred­er­icks

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