The Supreme Court along with the Judicial Reform and Institutional Strengthening (JURIST) Project is currently in the process of conducting a refresher training mediation workshops in Berbice, Region Six and Georgetown, Region Four.The two-day workshop in Georgetown opened on Wednesday at the Marriot Hotel while the Berbice workshop concluded on Tuesday at the Little Rock Suites in New Amsterdam.The Judicial Reform and Institutional Strengthening (JURIST) Project is a five-year regional Caribbean judicial reform initiative funded under an arrangement with the Government of Canada. The Project is being implemented on behalf of GlobalA section of the gathering at the mediation refresher course in BerbiceAffairs Canada (GAC) and the Conference of Heads of Judiciary of CARICOM (the Conference), by the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ), which was appointed by the Conference as its Regional Executing Agency (REA). The Project is working with judiciaries in the region to support their own efforts to improve court administration and strengthen the ability of the courts and the judiciary to resolve cases efficiently and fairly.In New Amsterdam, it was the first refresher training in Berbice since the first grout of mediators was trained in 2011.Mediation in Berbice has been almost non-existent. That is according to Director of Mediation Services International Attorney at Law Jamela Ali. Speaking at the opening of the workshop in New Amsterdam she said in Berbice mediators have not been given the opportunity to utilize their skills.She noted that the Berbice Mediation Centre is underutilised.“Since interest in mediation in Berbice has been low key, it is not surprising that in 2018, the numbers of mediators have dwindled a bit, for various reasons. But What is of significance is that Mediation seems not to have been developed or encouraged in Berbice and Mediators not given much Opportunities to utilize their skills acquired since 2011. In this regard, It is our objective that at the end of the session tomorrow, the mediation skills of the participants would have been strengthened and sharpened, there will be a renewed interest for mediation in this beautiful County of Berbice so that Berbicians can utilize the newly constructed Berbice Mediation’ Centre and benefit from your skill,” she said.Mediation, as used in law, is a form of alternative dispute resolution or a way of resolving disputes between two or more parties with concrete effects. Typically, a third party, the mediator assists the parties to negotiate a settlement.Ali said while the need exists greatly in Berbice for retraining of mediators, their counterparts in Georgetown are no less in need of such training.Meanwhile, Project Director of the Judicial Reform and Institutional Strengthen (JURIST) Project Gloria Richards Johnson noted that the training is a milestone in the life of JURIST. She explained that it is their goal to enhance the capacity of Guyana’s mediators in court-connected mediation.She said they have made great strides thus far and the project has completed several initiatives which include, Guidelines for Sexual Offence Cases; Disaster Recovery/Business Continuity Planning, Training on court administration and adjudication that is gender responsive and Customer focused; Re-engineering of business processes in selected courts to identify backlogs, introduce technology to eliminate backlogs and expedite the process, and undertake training for a more efficient administration.In giving some statistics on the meditation system in Guyana, Solicitor and Mediator Rafina Rahim noted that of 880 cases the court through the trial Judge directed 772 for mediation and of that number 108 matters were settled before actual mediation while 48 of matters successfully mediated where an agreement was reached.However, in 228 matters, the mediation was unsuccessfully and referred to trial. Rahim said some 338 of the matters which were referred to mediation, only some of the issues were resolved and 98 were returned to trial.
3 years later…project only 26% completedGovernment has been heavily criticised over its handling of the Amerindian Land Titling Project (ALT) with members of the Opposition arguing that very little progress has been made so far.Their arguments were confirmed by statements made by Indigenous Peoples’ Affairs Minister Sydney Allicock during a Parliamentary Committee meeting on Natural Resources on Wednesday.Allicock also revealed that not only was 26 per cent of the project completed, but in three years, the Ministry has not managed to issue a single title to any Amerindian community.“I have not been able to title any village, because we want to do things that areIndigenous Peoples’ Affairs Minister Sydney Allicock during the Parliamentary Committee meeting on Natural Resources on Wednesdaytruly reflected in the Free Prior and Informed (FPIC) process,” the Vice President told the media.The Minister told the Committee that the ALT work programme, which started in 2013, will require another decade before it could be completed, although the project life comes to an end in October 2018.According to him, only about 25 per cent of the total US$10 million earmarked for the project has been utilised thus far – some $500 million or US$2.5 million.He explained that funding was not the constraint, but claimed that the project was faced with manpower issues, as there is need for an anthropologist, and equipment also to support it. “Several communities are targeted for demarcation and work is continuing,” Allicock asserted despite members of the Opposition calling for the Minister to provide greater explanation on the matter.Allicock also lamented the time constraints of the project given its sensitive nature. He said had the Commission of Inquiry (CoI) been in place, it would have afforded more technical resources.In his report, Allicock also noted that the Ministry was working to complete the demarcation of an additional four communities by the end of the stated project life, which concludes in October.The Minister also indicated that it was likely that an extension would have to be sought to allow for all unresolved Amerindian land titling. He said, “We are in discussion and we are hoping that we could have another extension. We would have to come up with some justifying facts to seek an extension.”Meanwhile, Opposition Member of Parliament (MP) and former Amerindian Affairs Minister Pauline Sukhai argued strongly that from the information provided on the project, it seemed that the Government was dragging its feet on the issue and as such, the land titling process was now at a standstill.She said, “The Ministry which is a partner to all the other units that have been working in support of processing, granting land and demarcating lands to Indigenous people need to be more efficient…with the pace at which they are going, they may need at least two years’ extension and millions more.”Allicock conceded that there were a number of issues affecting progression in some communities. He was asked to submit those reasons to the Committee in writing by Committee Chair Odinga Lumumba.Committee members were also keen to find out about progress being made specifically in Rockstone. Residents there have repeatedly raised concerns over land titling matters.Allicock explained that the issues in the community were unique where elections recently took place, paving the way for a new Council to take office. He said “things have already been put in place” to address the land titling issue not only in Rockstone but in all Amerindian communities.In an attempt to school the Government members on the importance of land titling and demarcation to Indigenous peoples, Sukhai said that she was convinced that the Minister and his advisers were not too clear about the issue and as such, she advised them to do some research and acquaint themselves with them. She also criticised the Ministry for not continuing the progress made under the previous Administration.The Government in 2013 signed a US$10.7 million agreement for the implementation of the Amerindian Land Titling and Demarcation project, which concluded in 2016. However, an extension in 2017 was requested resulting in $165 million being earmarked for the advancing of the remaining identified areas.So far, 13 communities have applied for absolute grants for the first time. Of that number, seven have received approval and six have been demarcated. Out of 23 communities, 14 have been issued with Certificates of Title. But not one single community has so far received a title under the new Government.The ALT project seeks to achieve three major goals: completion of land titling issues and demarcation process for all Amerindian villages that submitted requests; increased use of existing and alternative mechanisms to resolve land titling disputes and a communication strategy, including a handbook describing the process of titling, demarcation, and social economic impact of secured land tenure.The project is being financed from the Guyana REDD+ Investment Fund (GRIF) under the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) Low Carbon Development Strategy (LCDS). (Samuel Sukhnandan)