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The Working People’s Alliance (WPA), in a statement, said the party condemns in the strongest terms the recent government action against homeowners in Mocha Arcadia. Thursday the government, accompanied by Police in battle gear, went into the village with bulldozers and excavators and destroyed homes, households items, businesses and livestock said to be valued at tens of millions of dollars.
One resident said he has 60 heads of cattle and has nowhere to put them. Another woman, who is a distributor of beverages for Banks DIH and Ansa McAl, stood by helplessly as the excavators and bulldozers destroyed her property and everything on the premises, including the beverages which were scattered on the ground. The government then dug a hole and buried everything they destroyed.
The government said the decision to destroy persons’ properties is because they want the area cleared to accommodate the construction of a road. However, where the road is to be constructed these homes are not in the pathway.
The party said whatever the state of negotiations, if there were any, between the two sides, some other outcome short of demolition of the houses should have ensued. “Bulldozing people’s homes against their will is a human rights violation, but worse, it is an act that reeks of disdain, and disrespect for citizens who have not offended the law or the government. The images broadcasted to the world from that village brings back memories of South Africa’s apartheid era and justifies the charges by sections of the African Guyanese community that Guyana is an emerging Apartheid State.”
The issue here cannot be resistance to “development”, as the government seeks to cast it, said the WPA. The party also “wishes to make it abundantly clear that it is strongly opposed to any development at the expense of the dignity and rights of people.”
It is patently clear that the land in question is not an obstruction to the proposed new roadway, the party pointed out, and questioned why the government had been so determined to evict the occupants at all costs. “The answer obviously has to do with the government’s acquisition of the land because [of] its potential value. WPA thinks this is naked land-grabbing on the part of a government which has already been accused of transferring State and Ancestral Lands to its friends and cronies.”
It should be noted, said the WPA, that this was the second demolition act by the government in the last year—the previous one being in Linden. “These actions are in stark contrast to the issuing of titles to ‘squatters’ in communities deemed to be supportive of the government.”
According to the party, the government cannot not know that the perception and reality of unequal treatment undermines its own stated mantra of ‘one Guyana.’ Further, the party said, the option of forced removal of mainly people of African descent whether it is in Linden, Mocha Arcadia or Georgetown, where the stalls of vendors were recently demolished against their will, represent acts of brutality and terror that have no place in modern society.
“The events in Mocha Arcadia, therefore, open the government to charges of racial profiling and racial discrimination in the process of governance. This, in the International Decade of the People of African Descent, an UN-sanctioned observation to which the Guyana Government is a signatory. The withholding of funds from the local body, IDPADA-G coupled with the wanton demolition of African Guyanese homes and business places point to a deliberateness of action on the part of the government.”
The WPA warned that these actions are pregnant with ethno-political provocation which threatens the wholeness of our country.
The party said it is also incensed by the cynical act of demolishing people’s homes and immediately after calling them with offers of money and alternative homes. “Such cynicism is akin to willfully killing people and offering to pay for their burial. In any case, the arrogance of unilaterally deciding the worth of compensation is manifestation of the inhumane attitude of the government on this and similar issues.”
That inhumanity was on full display, the party said, by some of the police officers who accompanied the demolition force from the Ministry of Housing.
The brutalisation of the women by at least one officer and their subsequent arrests were astonishing, said the party as it called for charges and prosecution of the officer or officers in question. “Nothing less should suffice.”
The WPA said it was also astonished by, and roundly berates the president for his cowardly justification of the actions taken at Mocha. “The Head of State and Government boldly justified the debacle as a form of ‘strength.’ He made clear that he did not want to appear weak. It is now abundantly clear that Guyana is governed by a government whose praxis is driven by force and is normalising such force.”
The WPA warned that indiscriminate government force leads to fear, fear leads to desperation, and desperation leads to instability.