The Amerindian Act of 2006 is set to be amended following the completion of the consultation process which isIndigenous Peoples’ Affairs Minister Sydney Allicockcurrently underway.The Amerindian Act of 2006 was intended to protect the fundamental rights and freedoms of the indigenous people, including the right to life, liberty, expression, movement and the protection from slavery and forced labour.However, Indigenous Peoples’ Affairs Minister Sydney Allicock posited that the current Act left much to be desired as it inadequately covered Amerindian rights, especially as it pertained to land rights. As such, he related that an amendment of the Act was necessary so as to address and resolve many of the conflicts surrounding land rights within indigenous communities.He revealed that the Indigenous Peoples’ Affairs Ministry has already commenced consultations with stakeholders, including village leaders and the Nationals Toshaos Council (NTC), on the revision of the Act.Allicock went on to explain that the issue of Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC), which is enshrined in the Act, has been ignored throughout the years. As such, the consultation will be placing emphasis on the issue. FPIC is the principle that a community has the right to give or withhold its consent to proposed projects that may affect the lands they customarily own, occupy or otherwise use. FPIC is now a key principle in international law and jurisprudence related to indigenous peoples. It implies informed, non-coercive negotiations between investors, companies or governments and indigenous peoples prior to the development and establishment of oil palm estates, timber plantations or other enterprises on their customary lands.This principle means that those who wish to use the customary lands belonging to indigenous communities must enter into negotiations with them. It is the communities who have the right to decide whether they will agree to the project or not once they have a full and accurate understanding of the implications of the project on them and their customary land. As most commonly interpreted, the right to FPIC is meant to allow for indigenous peoples to reach consensus and make decisions according to their customary systems of decision-making.The Minister pointed out that while the consultation process should have been at a more advanced level, Government is keen on involving all the indigenous peoples and their representatives. Therefore, the South Indigenous Group is heavily involved in the revision and amendment of the Act.“We believe that some of the things could be easily amended to allow us to move the process of land settlements…We are encouraging other indigenous groups and organisations to help to come up with ideas that will assist in moving the process forward,” Allicock declared.