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In August 2020, shortly after the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) returned to government, they began action to take back lands and other properties from those who received them during the A Partnership for National Unity and Alliance for Change (APNU+AFC) government ( 15th May, 2015- 1st August 2020).
Persons in the Wales community-i.e., a combination of villages on the West Bank Demerara, so referred because they supplied the Wales Sugar Estate with canes- as early as September 2020 began receiving eviction notices. During the APNU+AFC government, the state-owned National Industrial and Commercial Investments Limited (NICIL) leased un-occupied lands to those desirous of farming and those who were occupying at the time of the exercise. Persons were granted 20-year or more leases. The Wales Estate was closed in 2017 as part of the APNU+AFC’s right sizing policy in the ailing Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo).
In letters titled “NOTICE TO QUIT” dated 23rd September, 2020, which were seen by Village Voice, the government informed persons that in spite of being in possession of “a deed of lease” dated ….”NICIL requires the premises for use beginning from the 1st day of October 2021… hereby terminates any tenancy arrangement of occupancy that exists between it and you …[and] hereby gives you the required twelve month notice to quit and deliver up possession of the Premises on or before October 1, 2021.” The letters were signed by Arianne McLean (Ms), Company Secretary and In House Attorney, NICIL.
Occupants took NICIL to court.
In the ruling on 3rd May, 2022, which this newspaper saw, the “Court orders that the Notice to Quit be withdrawn.” The case was heard by Justice Nareshwar Harnanan.
Despite the court’s ruling, the government has devised a strategy to keep lessees off the land by either removing the bridges to get to the farms or allowing them to fall into disrepair. Village Voice visited the area at the invitation of aggrieved farmers. What was observed, in order to get to the farmlands, there are waterways which require bridges to cross and connect them. Some of these bridges were removed and the remainders are useless. Government is responsible for maintaining access roads and bridges to and from the farms.
Presently no produce can be reap or replanted. Neither can the farmers take their produce to the main roads and markets. The photographs here allow some insight into the situation.
Farmers have invested millions of dollars in development. One farmer asked the question, “Is this the one Guyana President Ali is talking about?” This prompted another to say, “In Ali’s one Guyana there is no place for some of us.”
When asked what next, farmers said they are still weighing their options because the government does not respect the court or the laws. What they are sure of, however, is that they are not moving off the land because the Court has ruled their leases are valid.
In the meanwhile the Government is touting its Grow More Food Campaign. Foreigners are being enticed to come to Guyana on the promise they will be given access to land and other concessions to do farming.