In a move that was widely hailed as a stunning breakthrough in the equitable treatment of Indigenous peoples – and being of great historical significance, the small Independent Caribbean State of Dominica (not to be confused with the Dominican Republic) – has accorded the democratically elected leader of it’s indigenous Kalinago-Carib community, Chief Charles Williams, with a Diplomatic passport.
“This is the first time in the history of the Americas that ANY State has EVER recognized a leader of its indigenous peoples in such an official capacity.”
Whereas it may not be either feasible or financially practical for other States with multiple Indigenous leaders of multiple Indigenous communities to follow Dominica’s noble example, there are at least two other Caribbean States that immediately come to mind such as Trinidad and Tobago – and St. Vincent and the Grenadines (both with singular Indigenous ethnic groups and leadership structures) that can very easily afford to do likewise; it only requires the political will to do so by the honorable Prime Ministers’ Patrick Manning (of Trinidad and Tobago) and Ralph Gonzalves (of St. Vincent and the Grenadines).
At today’s session Colombia’s OAS Ambassador mentioned the fact that his country was the ONLY member state of the OAS that allows the leaders of indigenous peoples to participate directly in their parliament, other countries only allow indigenous peoples to participate through a recognized political party.
The Ambassador of Colombia also glanced around the table where State representatives are seated and highlighted the sad fact that “There are many Caribbean States in the OAS, over one third of membership to be precise, but NONE are attending these sessions on the Draft American Declaration – and this is having a negative impact on the efforts to achieve consensus.”
For the record, the delegation of the Republic of Guyana was again the ONLY OAS member state representative from CARICOM that is making an effort to be in attendance and constructively participate in the current 11th session.
As a Barbadian by birth of Guyanese Arawak descent I feel proud to see the Guyana Mission at the table, but deeply embarrassed by the COMPLETE ABSENCE of every other Caribbean island state (not to mention Belize and Suriname with sizeable Indigenous populations) at these sessions.
Every day my fellow indigenous representatives ask me why the Caribbean countries are so indifferent and unconcerned about Indigenous rights – and I can only shrug my shoulders and say “I have no idea myself.”
I am hereby beseeching the Guyana Mission, Grenada’s former Ambassador Denneth Modeste, and Dominica’s United Nations Ambassador Crispin Gregoire – to invite their fellow CARICOM colleagues based here at the OAs Missions to make an effort to attend the final day of this session (from 10am-4pm with a 1-2pm lunch break) on Friday December 12th 2008 – so that we can end this 11th session on a truly positive note.
Reporting to Barbados Free Press from OAS Headquarters
Washington DC, United States of America.