Saturday, May 27, 2017

Govt promises more land to Amerindians

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The Amerindian community in Arima is to get "an appropriate parcel of land on which we could faithfully recreate the living conditions, customs and traditions of the first people," Minister of Multiculturalism Winston Peters said.

Launching the week of activities to mark Amerindian heritage at the Arima Town Hall yesterday under the theme, "Survival of a People" Peters said he has directed that "a brief (on the issue) be brought forward at the shortest possible time for consideration".

He said, "I am not speaking about a meagre five acres that somebody else may have promised you some time ago."

Pledging "to work as hard as I can to ensure that you all get the lands that you deserve," he said that the People's Partnership Government takes the issues of indigenous people's seriously. To this end, he said that the Government ratified two United Nations Conventions to protect the heritage of indigenous peoples in July.

Through the Amerindian Project Committee and in collaboration with the Santa Rosa community, Peters said that the Government was working on several proposals for the long-term development of the indigenous community.

In his address, chief of the Santa Rosa community, Ricardo Bharath Hernandez, said that while the community was grateful for the five acres of land given by the previous People's National Movement government, it was not enough.

"We humbly submit at this point that this is not enough for a people to whom this entire nation belongs and in particular for a community that was granted 1.320 acres or the mission of Santa Rosa. That is how Arima started," he said.

He noted that the UN recently adopted the declaration on the rights of indigenous peoples, which speaks of the protection of their cultural heritage and land rights issues, and that Trinidad and Tobago supported it.

"It is on this basis that we ask that this matter be reviewed by the present administration and that we be given a fair portion of land on which to establish a modern Amerindian village in a manner of our ancestors and that it be both a source of economic sustenance for our people and a tourist attraction for which Arima and the whole country could be proud," he said.

He said, too, that the past four administrations he has dealt, have all been sympathetic and have given some level of recognition and financial support for heritage activities.

"But we are seen as just another cultural group lining up for a subvention. That should not be so," he said.