Guyana: ‘PPP has no respect for Amerindians’ – Lenox Shuman

… slams Govt. for sham consultation on Marudi mining issue

Dec 06, 2021- Kaieteur News –Deputy Speaker, Lenox Shuman, said that the PPP/C Administration has no respect for Indigenous peoples and he called on government to return to the negotiation table to thrash out the issue regarding the agreement signed for mining activities at Marudi Mountains.

“In the supposedly “re-invented” PPP post 2020 elections, it was my sincere belief that the PPP was a transformed organisation and that they were open to dialogue on issues surrounding Indigenous peoples. I can say with absolute conviction, nothing is further from the truth,” Shuman who is also leader of the Liberty and Justice Party said in a letter to this newspaper on Sunday. He said the PPP Government did not facilitate meaningful dialogue with Indigenous Peoples on the Marudi Mountain gold mining agreements. “The agreements should be rescinded and returned to the table for discussions to ensure they are in compliance with Indigenous Peoples Rights at their core,” Shuman wrote.     

On November 27, Cabinet members rushed into South-Rupununi, following stanch criticisms on social media, following the signing of an agreement between the Ministry of Natural Resources and the Canada-based gold company to prospect the land, without prior consultations with residents.

Deputy Speaker, Lenox Shuman

The visiting delegation included Minister of Natural Resources, Vickram Bharrat, Minister of Home Affairs, Robeson Benn, and Minister of Amerindian Affairs, Pauline Sukhai. Officials from the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission (GGMC) were also present. At the conclusion of the meeting, several villagers complained to this newspaper that they were not allowed to ask questions, as the team was rushing to another meeting. This caused the villagers to become even more upset as they felt that they were disrespected.

In his letter Shuman said, understanding the variety of issues and the impact of mining on Indigenous Peoples, he is offering his services sincerely, wholeheartedly and apolitically to the Government – the PPP Administration, in assisting to resolve these and many other issues that continuously plague Indigenous Peoples. “That offer was initially taken up by Minister of Natural Resources, Vickram Bharrat. I attended “one” meeting with the Minister and a team from the South Rupununi District Council (SRDC) and one meeting with the Minister and the Toshao of Chenapau to address mining in the Kaieteur area. I have not been invited to another meeting since on any issue(s) surrounding Indigenous Peoples. I now see the reasons for and the outcome of such omissions,” Shuman wrote.

He said it is his informed view that the Government of Guyana under the Peoples Progressive Party (PPP) has zero inclination to meaningfully consult the Indigenous Peoples on any matter. “It is also my informed view that they intend to throw money at the problems the Indigenous Peoples face instead of genuinely trying to find comprehensive solutions to addressing them. By addressing the issues comprehensively, it empowers Indigenous Peoples which poses a problem to the PPP and that is far removed from the MO and intent of the PPP.”

Shuman cited as example the Law Reform Commission which was passed in Parliament earlier this year. He said in its first draft, in terse, the first draft stated that the Commission will enjoy the input of Constitutional Commissions. “I objected to the AG on the grounds that Indigenous Peoples are not represented simply because the Indigenous Peoples Commission (IPC) is there. The IPC also has non-indigenous entities on it, and I recommended that the National Toshaos Council (NTC) be the body to nominate a candidate to represent Indigenous Peoples. After five months of back and forth, my recommendation was finally taken on and the law was passed with the amendment that the NTC will nominate a candidate. “

According to Shuman upon completion of their process, the NTC nominated a candidate who, from an Indigenous Peoples perspective, is eminently qualified for that and many other positions relating to Indigenous Peoples. However, when the nomination was made to the AG’s office, the candidate was removed from the list and replaced by another more pliable candidate of non-indigenous persuasion. “I enquired from the AG as to the reasons for this to which he responded that the NTC’s nominee was always fighting with the PPP and he suggested I take it up with the President. I anticipate the President is much like David Granger in terms of deferring meetings and respecting the constitution. I await that meeting. Indigenous Peoples have consistently asked for one thing from the Government of Guyana – “to respect our rights’ which are tied to the singular conditionality upon Guyana achieving independence – rightful control over the lands and territories we have traditionally owned. Until such, it matters not which administration preaches a mantra of ONE GUYANA, SOCIAL COHESION or whatever new slogan will be championed, the two sides of the coin will continue to show us their freshly polished brass in vague light trying to pass off as newly minted gold,” Shuman said.

He added that in consideration of the continuous trampling of “our rights, the multitude of constitutional infringement on our rights, and a lack of access to justice, it is clear that Indigenous Peoples are living in a dystopia. The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples contains forty-six Articles of which forty-five are based on our rights and signed on by member states in relation to respecting our rights. The UNCERD, IAHCR and a variety of other international organisations have scolded the Government of Guyana (both PPP and APNU/AFC) in their shortcomings in relation to Indigenous Peoples and the Government of Guyana has taken a calloused approach to addressing the fundamental issues.”

Shuman said Indigenous Peoples are not against mining. “We are explicitly and unapologetically set against our rights being trampled upon. We have lived here for time immemorial and account for the least international migration as compared to our costal sisters and brothers. Where the coast looks at our lands as places to make money and enrich themselves, we look at our lands as places to make a life, raise our families and to protecting our future. Our forest, rivers and farms are our neighbourhoods, grocery stores, pharmacies, and oxygen banks. I support the SRDC and the Wapichana Nation of the South Rupununi and call on the Government of Guyana to rescind the mining agreements and return to the table for discussions. This would be a clear indication of the value the PPP Administration places on Indigenous Peoples and their intent on being one that respects the Constitution and the rule of law,” the deputy speaker said.

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  • Georgy Porgy  On 12/06/2021 at 8:16 am

    No surprise there. The government has no intention of consulting with anyone, especially when it has to do with $$$$$$. Guyanese must make a list of all the lies, and corruption that’s happening within this government so they know what to do come the next election. This regime is one of dictatorship, manned by a puppet and its master. Only the people can put an end to it.

    • Dennis Albert  On 12/06/2021 at 1:55 pm

      Before social media, everyone knew which “businessman” was involved in legal or illegal businesses.

      Today, those same businessmen benefit from the oil. Tragic, while Guyanese fishermen have to deal with oil spill.

  • Petal Jo  On 12/06/2021 at 10:12 am

    I truly agree

  • Dennis Albert  On 12/06/2021 at 1:53 pm

    Why did Shuman give up his Canadian citizenship to be treated like a second class citizen in Guyana?

    I would not be surprised if he dies mysteriously in an accident or a suicide. This is the corruption going on with oil and the imported Italian sports cars.

  • brandli62  On 12/07/2021 at 10:23 am

    “According to Shuman upon completion of their process, the NTC nominated a candidate who, from an Indigenous Peoples perspective, is eminently qualified for that and many other positions relating to Indigenous Peoples. However, when the nomination was made to the AG’s office, the candidate was removed from the list and replaced by another more pliable candidate of non-indigenous persuasion.”

    This excerpt illustrates exemplary the disrespect of the AG Anil Nandlall (and the entire Ali administration) for other peoples’ views on key issues that affect the future of Guyana. There is a complete lack of taking descending views into account and trying to find common grounds for compromise. What makes things even worse in the specific case, is the fact that the AG pretended to hear the concerns of the National Toshaos Council (NTC) and then takes unilateral decision by not following the recommendation of the NTC. What an insult for the NTC and the indigenous community. Given the indigenous people make up 10% of the electorate, these actions are shortsighted and just dumb in light of how close the last few general elections were decided, where a few percentages decided the winner.

    • theonly  On 12/07/2021 at 2:53 pm

      How do you KNOW that he is telling the truth, i dont like the PPPC,but we cant beleave everything people say, BTW not too long to go before MY people are back in power. ( drill and pump baby)

      • brandli62  On 12/07/2021 at 3:07 pm

        I am not aware that AG Anil Nandlall has disputed Lenox Shuman’s account of the story. Please correct me, if I had missed something.

  • wally n  On 12/07/2021 at 11:07 am

    Maybe time to start their own party, they will find plenty of support from many non- native supporters. This 3rd class treatment has been going on too long, probably could have enough swing representatives in parliament. Natives politicians might be the only honest group today.

  • brandli62  On 12/07/2021 at 11:22 am

    Lennox Shuman appears to have been genuinely trying to have constructive dialogue with the Ali administration and is treated like s… This is not good. Period.

  • wally n  On 12/07/2021 at 2:39 pm

    Not a fan of the Justice Party, he should start over with a party with a fully Native base, thousands of partials and supporters. This might be the right time.

    • brandli62  On 12/07/2021 at 3:16 pm

      On the other hand, we all believe that Guyana needs parties that are not defined by their ethnic base. The bigger problem in the Guyanese electoral system is that you cannot cast you vote to support capable individuals. You cast your vote for a party who then decides you will represent them in parliament. This is a bad system give far to much power the party leadership. In Switzerland, where my family lives, you cast both a vote for the party list, which you can alter to remove certain candidates and add candidates, even from other parties. The votes for each candidate and party are counted. The seats in parliament are allocated according to party strength and then to individuals receiving the most votes. Modified versions of the Swiss system might be worth a thought for Guyana in the context of the planned electoral reforms.

  • wally n  On 12/07/2021 at 4:19 pm

    That would be great,but, I would think a hard sell. How I view it, I tried both parties over and over, maybe a new perspective, with a promise of transparency. It could initially attract the people who are just fed up, with same old same old.
    Not really off topic, years ago I wondered why Caribana attracted such large crowds but always in “confusion:” I realized there is this malady among Guyanese and Caribbean people never wanting to give new people a chance,and if someone new steps up, they will destroy them.
    This close minded attitude, may be a major stumbling block.

  • wally n  On 12/08/2021 at 11:05 am

    I was thinking more like the United Force,Peter D’Aguiar, he did have support from more than the “Portuguese”. The time is right,now.

  • brandli62  On 12/09/2021 at 4:15 am

    I believe that electoral reform will be necessary to put an end of the unofficial two-party system in Guyana. There should be strict proportional representation. One should also consider the option of the entire country serving as one voting district. Every party gaining more that 3% of the vote should be represented in the parliament. In addition, a second chamber representing the different regions, similar to the senate in the US or Switzerland, should be considered. Each region of the ten regions would elect two representatives. This would give rural areas more weight and could effectively help to represent the interests of the indigenous populations in regions 1, 7, 8 and 9. They would effectively hold 8 seats out of 40. This is definitely worth a thought. It would also force the ruling party to work our laws that have the chance of passing a vote in the senate. Overall, it would force more consensus.

  • wally n  On 12/09/2021 at 12:24 pm

    Not sure if the ruling parties will entertain changes, that they consider will have an adverse effect.It is important for the third party to solidify it’s base first. They should focus on internal problems,of which there are many, of a more immediate nature. Both of the leading parties are somewhat vulnerable, because of their “global” focus, seems they are more interested to show an ability to be International thinkers, than national fixers, daily accusations of shady dealing, slowly becoming the norm, might be the time to convince the population, a change is needed, been done before.
    I think we all agree.

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