AMERINDIAN TRIBES SIGN PEACE PACT
Terrence Esseboom The Chronicle May 1999
The nine Amerindian tribes in Guyana signed an historic peace pact Friday, prohibiting forever, bloody battles among themselves.
The covenant was ratified by 70 Captains and Councillors after they, by turn, imbibed Parakari (peace drink), from a single container and embraced each other in a circle, and finally formalised the ceremony by signing the peace accord.
They also observed one minute silence for all their fallen colleagues.
"This is a historic moment for Amerindians," one Touchou remarked at the end of the occasion, hosted at the Zeriwa (St. Ignatius) headquarters of the Amerindian Peoples Association (APA) in Region Nine (Upper Takutu/Upper Essequibo)
The explanation it that indigenous leaders are concerned by statements attributed to an Amerindian Member of Parliament (MP) that the nine nations are "still at war" since the last major warfare decades ago between the Makushis and the Wapishanas at the battle in the vicinity of Mount Siriri in the South Rupununi in which left many dead on both sides.
APA official, Mr. Eugene Isaacs, told the chronicle that the rivalry between the two tribes were over land, adding that the Wapishanas then, had an "expansionist philosophy."
The peace treaty is binding on the Akawaios, Arawaks, Arekunas, Caribs, Makushis, Patamonas, Wai Wais Wapishianas and the Warraus "forever," Isaacs, one of the conference executives stated.
The Captains and Councillors agreed too, that the signed documents would be sent to the United Nations (UN) headquarters in the USA for international recognition.
The officials also suggested that April 29, the day the peace deal was formalised, be named a national holiday for Guyanese.
The four-day caucus of Amerindian Captains and Councillors which ended Friday, was organised around the theme "Our Land, Our Life, Our Culture and participants resolved to go forward as "one people to fight a common cause."
The meeting among others things, focused on the negative impacts of logging activities on Amerindian Villages, the land demarcation scheme, establishment of a National protected Areas Systems (NPAS), granting concessions to logging and mining firms, and calls for indigenous peoples to be integrally involved in every phase of schemes undertaken in their communities.
On the demarcation program, a conference statement said that many of us totally reject Government's demarcation program and demand that we demarcate our lands as we know them to be. We unanimously call upon Government to recognise and respect our rights to our lands occupied and used since time immemorial. "
The press release continued: "We call further on the Government to establish a formal lands settlement procedure by which all outstanding land claims can be resolved to our satisfaction in the spirit of mutual respect and cooperation."
"The situation of the First Peoples of Guyana is grave. Our lands are not recognised and we are discriminated against in law and practice. Foreign and local companies have been given permission the work on our lands and they, not we, receive all the benefits," the statement complained.
The four-day formality also evaluated the present local government system, its influence on them, and the existing Amerindian Act which village leaders described as "heinous" and "rubbish". They are seeking its immediate withdrawal.
A parliamentary sub-committee was established in 1993 to review the legislation which the Captains and Councillors vowed to fight "to the end" in a detailed resolution read at the need of the conference.
They also called for "meaningful dialogue" with the government and want the latter to officially recognise the APA, The Amerindian Action Movement of Guyana (TAMOOG) and the Guyanese organisation for Indigenous Peoples (GOIP)
In addition, they called for increased stipends for all Captains and Councillors and for these officials to undergo training so they can function as Justices of the Peace (JP) and Rural Constables.
Meanwhile, Chenapau Captain, Anthony Melville has expressed deep concern at a confidence disclosure that the boundaries of the Kaieteur National Park had been extended.
The tiny village of Chenapau would be the hardest hit by the move under the NPSS programme funded by the World Bank.
Melville said word of the extension of the Park "came to us a s a real shock."
he said the community of just under 500 persons is increasing and more lands are needed to continue their traditional methods of food gathering - fishing, farming and hunting.
The extension prohibits these activities, and according to the community leader, the areas added to the Kaieteur National Park are the only way in and out for Chenapau residents."
"…..we want the order revoked immediately, what will happen to our children," Melville queried.