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The PPP has returned to power without a coherent land management policy for Guyana. This has exposed them on several fronts like the Success Squatter Settlement issue. The Minister with responsibility for the sector Mr. Collin Croal, stood in the National Assembly just recently stating that while he was requesting additional monies from the public coffers no arrangements were put in place to urgently regularize or relocate the Success squatters.
When we compare the Success issue with squatters on the shoulders of the Conservancy Dam, Canal No. 1, for instance, we see a policy in effect: ‘different strokes for different folks’. Government recently, led by Irfaan Ali, delivered potable water and electricity to the squatters at Conservancy Dam. Minister Croal told the National Assembly they “will not” be moved due to the length of time they have been there.
When you map where the current ad hoc distribution of land is occurring, much like the distribution of the bulk of the COVID-19 Cash Grant, it has more to do with the practice of politics by those in power than a holistic housing policy; mapped instead along PPP’s electoral lines. Those who had harboured hopes of the return of a PPP transfigured understand now more than ever that that was simply wishful thinking, now faded with the Christmas Season.
On assuming government the PPP attacked a land issue at Kingelly, West Coast Berbice, where veteran trade unionist Lincoln Lewis has been arguing that those are ancestral land belonged to his forefathers. Instead of a judicious interlocutor in the Attorney General (AG) Anil Nandlall, it was reported he told some Kingelly residents, ““Listen wuh meh ah tell yuh, if Lincoln Lewis interferes with your operation…your occupation, break down whatever physical structure he has.”
If persons occupy state lands illegally and there is a policy which speaks to their removal it should be applied universally, as we are reminded of the epithet ‘justice is blind’. Yet the leaseholders of the former Wales Estate may be yet another exception to the rule, as the PPP’s administration said that NICIL’s Special Purpose Unit (SPU) ‘could not explicate the process used to dispose of thousands of acres’. We are now being told the matter is being relooked at given the fact that “some persons complained that they had already expended monies on the lands and they have begun occupation.”
Like the fences at Kingelly the administration’s policy has been to break down everything the APNU+AFC erected. The former government’s coherent policy of ‘housing solutions’ and not just distributing lands is being dismantled post-haste. Last August Minister Croal told a nation anxious for a roof over every head that promotional land deals by APNU+AFC would be reversed and monies paid reimbursed. “The decision was made across the board to have all the letters and allocations rescinded,” reports quoted the Minister as saying.
It is far easier to break down anything than to build up something. What the nation is yet to hear articulated is the heart of the administration’s land management plan, instead of plasters being applied to sores. The squatters at Success will continue to look at those at Conservancy Dam jealousy, for sure, wondering whether this New Year means more deliberate flooding of the lands they occupy, more pellets from the police or more tear gas because if it is one thing they know of the PPP regime, while all men are created equal some are more equal than others.
Sherod Avery Duncan, MP