Friday, June 08, 2007

Guyana: APA & GOIP respond to Persaud on Barama Controversy

From the Stabroek News, Georgetown, Guyana:

Who did Mr Peter Persaud really represent?
Thursday, June 7th 2007

Dear Editor,

I refer to a letter captioned, "These groups are wrong to call on Barama to cease operations in Akawini village lands" (07.05.28) by Peter Persaud of The Amerindian Action Movement of Guyana.

First of all the Amerindian Peoples Association (APA) and the Guyanese Organisation of Indigenous Peoples (GOIP) are not surprised that Mr. Persaud did not have the guts to personally confront the two organisations with his opinions when he had ample opportunities to do so. He is only following his modus operandi of seeking to cast blame on others while trying to make himself look good. An opportunity for Mr. Persaud to clear the air had presented itself when two senior members of the APA had asked him about his alleged connections with the Barama Co. based on questions that arose from among the Akawini community about what appeared to be his representation of the company and not the community's interest in the Barama issue. He had denied any connections with the company.

In his earlier meetings with the team that met with the Akawini community, Mr. Persaud had claimed that he was the "indigenous representative" in the discussions even though it is not clear who had appointed him as such a representative.

There was another opportunity for Mr. Persaud to state his opinions when he travelled for two days in the company of two senior members of the APA and GOIP on the recent Barama-led tour of its operations in Buckhall and to the Akawini village. All along none of the two persons knew that Mr. Persaud harboured such opinions of the organizations and that a letter was already in the press. Nonetheless his position is not difficult to understand as it was clear during the trip that he was very familiar with the Barama officials and vice versa. We cannot say the same for his closeness with the Akawini council which he claims to represent and wonder what it took for him to finally clear the air on where his allegiances lie. We trust that the wider indigenous community takes note of this.

Just to clarify for Mr. Persaud, the opinions of the APA and GOIP are based on how Barama chose to operate in the Akawini community rather than on what any "critic" may have said about the company. If Mr. Persaud had truly been representing the community, surely he would have supported them as well. He should now tell the public what was his role as a so called "indigenous representative" which resulted in an unconscionable agreement signed between Akawini and the Interior Woods Products Inc in which the community only stood to lose. Mr Persaud had said that he had never seen the contract yet he had made several visits to Akawini, one clearly on behalf of Barama, to try to convince the Toshao that he should meet with Mr. Lalaram for a one-to-one discussion to try to sort out the problems being encountered. How could Mr Persaud not have asked to see the contract when this was the main source of the problem for the community? This further raises questions about this ability to represent an issue, given his admission that he has never seen the contract.

Mr Persaud questions the representation by our organizations but we urge him to tell us when last his "organization" held an assembly of its members to elect an executive body, where is his constitution that guides the operations of his "organization", and what is his membership like? It appears that Mr. Persaud is "president for life" or otherwise he is the epitome of leadership in his "organization" and cannot be replaced.

Mr. Editor, it has never been the policy of our organizations to raise matters like these in the public but we feel compelled to respond to Mr. Persaud's baseless accusations as others may go on to believe his ravings. We know that he will continue to use the press to spread his groundless statements, or perhaps even use a pen name to spread his misrepresentations but we do not wish to continue anything in public, not because we have anything to hide or are not proud of the work of our organizations but because we simply do not feel that cheap politicking and accusations will get us anywhere.

Yours faithfully,

Tony James

President APA [Amerindian Peoples's Association]

Alan Leow

Chief, GOIP [Guyanese Organisation of Indigenous Peoples]

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