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Once again, Guyanese have had the opportunity to witness, President Ali’s ‘one Guyana’ policy, in the demolition of the homesteads of poor Guyanese, who for many years, have been occupying lands, to live and farm at Mocha Arcadia, on the East Bank of Demerara. Its thinking is clear: All Guyanese are not equal. The thinking forms part of a wider system of structural discrimination and inequalities in our country facilitated by the governing People’s Progressive Party /Civic (PPP/C).
Most Guyanese are coming to accept that ‘one Guyana’ does not mean All Guyana. This ‘one Guyana’ is a divisive form of governance that has been shamelessly shameless in excluding the majority of Guyanese. Not until we all come together in strength and unity and put an end to this PPP/C governmental lawlessness and recklessness, will development be inclusive and to the benefit of all Guyanese. Unless and until we unite, across this country, as One People, One Nation, One Destiny, Guyana and the world will continue to witness more insensitive and inhumane actions by the government and its agents against the poor and vulnerable.
The government’s belief in the old dictum: “might is right” has no place in Guyana. As proud, sensible and intelligent people we cannot, we must not, let that happen. In fact, silence on the part of critical stakeholders, against the mismanagement of the country by the incumbent is fueling its uncaring attitude towards citizens. This high-handed and crass reaction of the government appears to be its standard in addressing social, economic and other issues affecting citizens.
It is true some who support the PPP/C are not supportive of the ‘one Guyana’ because they recognise not only are they not getting their fair share of the nation’s patrimony but the divisiveness harms good relations with their neighbours, friends, teachers, nurses and business.
The political indiscretions and lopsided policies of the government are backwards, anti-national and anti-Guyana. There is no justification, whatsoever, to engage in decision-making that has serious potentials to adversely affect the lives and livelihood of others. Mocha Arcadia is believed to be not supportive of the PPP/C and for that the people were punished. I’ve said before and repeat here: squatters have rights and the government cannot demolish their homes and properties, hiding behind the power of the state, in an exercise of brute force and inhumanity.
The United Nations’ Commission on Human Rights, Sub-Commission on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities Report, highlighting the “Twelve Misconceptions and Misinterpretations of the Right to Housing,” dispelled the notion of ‘squatters’ being criminals and unworthy of meaningful engagement and respect. The universal right is also secured in Article 154 of the Constitution of Guyana.
During the very period when agents of the government demolished the homes of fellow Guyanese in Mocha, the government hosted a ceremony and handed out certificates of title as part of its programme to regularise squatting in Region Three.
Over 170 residents from sections of Greenwich Park (Railway Embankment), Tuschen (Railway Embankment), Plantation Uitvlugt and Stewartville Sideline Dam, and De Kinderen (Railway Embankment), Region Three are expected to start receiving their Certificate of Title before the end of the year. Also, more than 40 informal settlers residing at Pigeon Island, East Coast of Demerara, received their certificates of title.
The claim by government officials that Mocha squatters were in the way of the construction of the road, even if true, is an extremely poor reason or excuse for bulldozing their homes and livelihood. The remaining residents have also refuted claims by the government that they were offered financial compensations and housing that would have guaranteed similiar standard of livelihood or minimal disruption of their livelihood.
A single parent businesswoman (distributor) said she had $1 million in beverage from Banks DIH and $700,000 from Ansa McAl that was not paid for, in addition to more than a $1 million worth in goods she paid for. And whilst the beverage loss could be quantified, the loss in household articles and building materials were not stated. There were other stories of despair. The look of anguish on the faces of fellow Guyanese is one of the lowest moments in our history. It is a painful experience deserving of the harshest of condemnation and must not be repeated.
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. This is what good governance and democracy is about; it is about government and opposition coming together and finding solutions around difficult situations.
However, the government unwisely did two things:
First, use force to cruelly displace poor squatters, creating animosity between police and citizens whom the police, by mandate, should be protecting. Members of the Force, with battle gears, were deployed to instill fear among the squatters, and to prevent them from protecting their homes and other belongings.
Second, the government has humiliated those citizens in the worst possible way. It is really about subjugation and domination of a certain group of people. This is especially true when one considers the uneven unequal treatment of citizens in Mocha Arcadia.
This leads to a wider question on the intention of the government in relation to its action against some Guyanese. It is not unreasonable to say the government is seeking to have ‘one Guyana,’ not All Guyana benefit from trade and commercial activities resulting from the new proposed road. Were they about All Guyana, the residents of Mocha Arcadia would have been treated differently.
Citizens would recall a similar issue with the Berbice River Bridge. In 2008, the PPP/C government changed the original site to where it is today, D’ Edward Village. The Public Relations Officer for the Berbice Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCI), Mr. Norman Semple, expressed disappointment that the government did not even consult with the body on the new Bridge plan. The original proposed site of that Bridge was from Ithaca, on the West Bank of the Berbice River, to Highbury, on the East Bank. The results: diversion of traffic from New Amsterdam; reduced commercial activities, stunted business growth; lack of economic development in that area, and poor local communities.
Guyanese must also pay keen attention to whom the government is allocating lands along the recently built roads, including the one from Nelson Mandela Road to Diamond. Their motive: to divide us when all we need and deserve is to live in peace and harmony.
The political environment is divisive, unhealthy and dysfunctional. If we, Guyanese, do not unite and struggle against this uncaring regime then there will be significant consequences not only for the development of our communities but also our country. In the words of John Stuart Mill: “Let not anyone pacify his conscience by the delusion that he can do no harm if he takes no part and forms no opinion. Bad men need nothing more to compass their ends than that good men should look on and do nothing. He is not a good man who, without a protest, allows wrong to be committed in his name, and with the means which he helps to supply, because he will not trouble himself to use his mind on the subject.”