Indigenous People’s Affairs Minister Sydney AllicockWhile gold mining probably started over 150 years ago in Guyana, Amerindians have inhabited the lands in the interior regions for centuries. In fact, because for most the forest was all they had known, they treated the management of the natural resources there with utmost care.Indigenous People’s Affairs Minister Sydney Allicock on Monday responded to claims made by former Head of the Guyana Gold and Diamond Miners Association (GGDMA), Patrick Harding and other members of the Association, who described Government’s decision to give back lands to indigenous communities as unfair.At the Association’s Annual General Meeting (AGM) last week, Harding mentioned that members of the Indigenous community were being offered lands that were rich with minerals. He said these lands would be used by the Amerindians for cultural and domestic purposes. All these would be happening, he noted, while miners will be unable to generate income.Speaking with Guyana Times on Monday, Minister Allicock said the lands in these areas were home to the Amerindians.“That is where the ecosystem exists. The Indigenous people don’t see himself as one being. It is just part of a family with the fishes, fresh water, fresh air, trees, flowering trees and all of these ecosystems are associated and he knows that if he destroys these without thinking, he will be committing slow suicide. It is not fair to say that mining lands are being taken away,” he said.According to the Minister, Indigenous people have always wanted to have their own lands, “their own areas, but it has been taking sometime to have these things settled”.He said while they agree that the country needed economic development, precautions should be taken.Meanwhile, Allicock suggested that miners and their associations begin carrying out scientific research and surveys to determine the presence of minerals, so as to not excavate lands randomly.He told Guyana Times that if there was a scientific approach and studies carried out, miners would be able to locate the gold and other minerals, and would be better able to manage and replenish the earth.“This is what is needed. How many of it they are putting back to the very thing that is keeping us alive, are they thinking about that? When they go in there, all sorts of things happen, including alcohol abuse, neglect of families, malaria and other diseases and that is costly for the Government and all they are seeing are riches from the forest, take it out and move,” he said, continuing that they forget that the forest was the “homeland to a people”.According to Minister Allicock, much education is needed in this regard, so when miners do turn up, they would have a better approach, with a sound understanding of the laws of the community and similar respect for the people of that community.“You can’t say we are giving away the lands, the Indigenous people have always been there, and they should be treated with respect and that is why we are working towards a lands commission, which will hopefully bring an end to all these issues. We have a lot of work to do,” Allicock said.