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The Opposition, A Partnership of National Unity and Alliance For Change (APNU+AFC), has lambasted the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) Government for their mistreatment of residents at Mocha Arcadia, East Bank Demerara. Speaking at the weekly press conference on Thursday, the Opposition laid out the sequence of events leading up to the destruction of homes, properties, businesses, crops, livestock, among other valuables by the Government last Thursday January 5. Whilst residents are still assessing the losses some estimated these to be in the tens of millions. Persons have been living on the land for decades, have built sturdy concrete structures, and have been earning their livelihood in the area.
The coalition, whilst noting Guyanese will not forget the atrocities of Mocha, pointed out residents “are real people whose lives were upended by a vicious and vindictive government, whose president only wanted to show that he is a strongman, [s]uch childishness is dangerous and must be condemned by all decent-minded citizens and organisations.”
Recounting the history of Caneview, the Opposition informed Mocha, which is known as part of ancestral lands, is an area of land that was occupied by children and grandchildren of retired Cane Cutters who used the said plot of land for cattle rearing. “These families began living in this area approximately 30 years ago. At this location, a lot of community social activities took place, especially at Easter time.”
Pointing out the Ministry of Housing under then Minister of Housing, Irfaan Ali (now President) conducted a survey to start the regularisation of those homes; some residents were awarded house lots, were told they should construct houses with stronger foundations, and turn their houses around since a road will pass behind. The residents followed all the guidelines and complied with the government’s advice , said the coalition.
“They also saved their money since they were expected to pay the Ministry of Housing for the lands.” However on September 2nd 2021, the PPP/C government scrapped its original plan and informed residents they should remove it from the area because dust and noise from the construction will affect them, the APNU+AFC made known.
“The residents responded that they do not have to since they will not be affected. The Ministry made a presentation stating that it will be a negotiated process and persons will be relocated. There were thirty-five (35) households with fifty (50) children.” Later evaluators valued the property and distributed application forms for house lots, said the Opposition, but some residents had applied to the Ministry of Housing for over twelve (12) years. Bio data was also collected and the government had a draft agreement circulating which they withdrew.
Later the Ministry began calling individuals on a one-on-one basis and began making offers, the opposition stated, pointing out the following: –
- On January 9th, 2022 a letter was written to the President requesting engagement with the residents but “he did not respond or engage the people even though he knew about the problem. Within the year, the government began destroying people’s property. In the circumstance, twenty-eight (28) persons began relocating. Many were disgruntled since they were not properly settled, and their old homes were being destroyed.”
- The remaining households which had twelve (12) adults and twenty (20) children were persons who were self-employed in farming and selling. The government wanted them to sell their livestock and refused to properly engage the people to make them comfortable. Employees of the Ministry of Housing, mainly Mr. Aaron would call these individuals and make offers. However, at meetings with his other representatives the offers would change.
- On January 5th, 2023 the government destroyed seven families’ homes and valuables by grading everything to the ground. They returned on January 7th, broke the pens with livestock, and began dumping mud to bury them. They were also burying remaining building materials making it more difficult for farmers to even use these materials to help themselves.
Those affected by the January destruction are:
- Joyann Ellis, seven (7) persons (owned cows and fruit trees and also did sewing).
- Junior Ellis, nine (9) persons (owned about 30 heads of cow, fruit trees, sold pepper and Achar).
- Candacy Williams, five (5) persons (mother died 2 years ago and left the property for her 5 children one is still at school and the eldest has developmental challenges).
- Mark Gordon, four (4) persons (had 17 large pigs with 75 piglets, over 20 ducks, 25 layers, bearing fruit trees) He was forced to sell his 17 large pigs and some piglets for next to nothing because he would have lost everything.
- Shevon Eastman, seven (7) persons (a proprietor who is a wholesale outlet for Banks DIH and Ansa McCall products).
- Teon Liefide (incomplete negotiations) had a bar and swimming pool business.
- Mark Hyman is a farmer who took the house but was waiting on the Promised Land for his livestock. He sold eggs, fruits and vegetables. His home was broken and his animals remained there until they broke the pen and started causing him losses.
After the destruction of properties, on the same day, officials from the housing ministry began calling to make offers to three of the seven (7) families. The Opposition said it was only after the incidents President Ali found his voice to speak but failed to engage the people, for more than a year even when they sought his attention. Ali “did not even find it necessary on his visit to Mocha Arcadia Community on 11th September 2022 to visit this area or address the concerns of these people,” the coalition pointed out.
And “after the destruction of homes, the Ministry of Education visited to see the children who were affected. After the destruction of homes, the Ministry of Agriculture called for a list of the farmers and the crops and livestock they have.” According to the Opposition had the government engaged in a negotiated process, all of this after action would have been done and the government would have ensured these people are comfortable.
“Here is clear evidence that ‘one Guyana’ is for one set of people. What Guyanese witnessed with shock was the callous actions of the PPP government in confiscating the land and demolishing the homes of several families in Caneview, Mocha.”
The APNU+AFC assured those affected by the incident that they continue to stand in support of their rights and to provide material assistance. “Several Party groups and members, both locally and overseas, have offered material and other comfort to the dislodged families. Our Social Welfare Committee, headed by PNCR Vice Chairman Elizabeth Williams-Niles, has been in the forefront of these humanitarian efforts. We will continue with these efforts.”