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The Government Thursday swooped down in Mocha Arcadia, accompanied by Police in full riot gear, and proceeded to demolish houses and businesses with the use of bulldozers and excavators. Residents’ pleas to not destroy their possessions, including allowing them to get access to remove some household items, were not given consideration.
The five homes that have remained and the government want removed are not in the path of the proposed new road. The residents have established businesses and livestock that are their main source of income. One resident has 60 cows but the government wants him to sell his cattle and relocate to a government provided apartment in Diamond. Persons of the area have been living there for at least fifteen to thirty years.
Shadow Minister of Legal Affairs, Mr. Roysdale Forde SC, who was at the scene, along with other Opposition Members of Parliament (MPs), told Village Voice the government’s actions are violations of human rights and dignity. According to him “the demolition of properties is more about humiliation and subjugation.”
Pointing to South Africa, Forde said what happened in Mocha carries similarities. Referencing during the apartheid period the Government was demolishing squatters’ homes in similar manner, a practice continued in the post-apartheid period, the court ruled the act was not only unconstitutional but violated humanitarian principles. Squatters have rights and the government cannot demolish their homes and properties like that, he contended.
Forde cited the United Nations’ Commission on Human Rights, Sub-Commission on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities report illuminating the “Twelve Misconceptions and Misinterpretations of the Right to Housing.” That report dispelled the notion of ‘squatters’ being criminals and unworthy of meaningful engagement and respect, said the shadow minister. Forde said the rights are also enshrined in Article 154 of the Constitution of Guyana.
The government dismantled the bridges that would have allowed access over the other side, leaving some stranded on one side, not being able to access their homes and possessions. One woman, who sells beverages made a plea to save her investments but that too was given no consideration. Reports from onlookers said the Police were seen “glutinously” drinking the beverages scattered on the ground. Women in tears from obvious, gut wrenching anguish, looking on at the destruction of their possessions were comforting each other.
In a previous statement Forde said “the people living in this area cannot affect the road but what is the underlying issue here, and what is the elephant in the room, which I will address, is [the government does] not want the people who are living there, which are largely African Guyanese, to benefit from the opportunities which would come naturally from being close to a road-a major road- and the economic benefit and impact that will derive to them.” According to the MP, “that is the issue here.”
Referring earlier to government harassment of his colleague, MP Nima Flu-Bess, for standing in solidarity with the squatters, Forde said Minister of Housing Mr. Collin Croal has to offer an apology to Flu-Bess because he has caused the problem by his high handed behaviour and by his obvious land grabbing approach in relation to this issue.
“He owes her an apology, he owes the people who live in that area, whose home would have been destroyed, an apology, and I want it to be recorded what is not being said is that this issue of Mocha Arcadia is an issue of economics, it is an issue of the government acting in a high handed manner.”
Forde said the entire situation could be handled differently if the government stops its one Guyana victimisation and exclusion and takes an All Guyana approach to the matter. He said the government cannot right an alleged wrong by committing a humanitarian wrong. “Before taking such drastic actions against a vulnerable group of people the political leaders from both sides should have engaged each other so as to find a workable solution to the issue at hand.”
The shadow minister said this is what good governance and democracy is about; it is about government and opposition coming together and finding solutions around difficult situations. “The brutality, dehumanisation and destruction of properties of the people in Mocha Arcadia speak volumes to the uncaring nature of the ‘one Guyana’ government.”