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Minister of Labour Joseph Hamilton’s recent statement during the 2023 budget debate that the government plans to repossess unused lands from Cooperative Societies has caused alarm among the African Guyanese community. Many of these Cooperative Societies are black-owned and have struggled to access loans and resources to develop their lands.
Hamilton’s statement comes as a reminder of a previous PPP/C administration’s actions, where aggressive actions were taken to dispossess African Guyanese of their ancestral lands. The APNU administration had previously restored these Cooperative Societies’ lands, but now they are once again under threat.
The Mocha atrocity, where the PPP government was accused of evicting residents, destroying property and stealing ancestral lands from the African Guyanese community, has left a deep wound in the community. The recent case where John Fernandes Limited John Fernandes Limited (JFL) allegedly pulled out of an agreement of sale for 143.10 acres of land for $35m with the BV/Triumph Neighborhood Democratic Council has further fueled suspicions that the PPP government and other private interests are on a quest to dispossess African Guyanese of their land and hand it over to their private sector friends, family, and cronies.
The African Guyanese community is outraged that the government is once again targeting their lands, which are often in prime locations, while ignoring the vast unproductive lands owned by other groups such as the well known Vieira family which is one of the largest land owners in Guyana. In fact, most of the “unproductive” land in the Houston/Rome area is owned by the Vieira family, yet there are no claims and aggressive moves to dispossess the Vieiras of the former sugar estates they own.
African Guyanese hear the warning in Joe Hamilton’s words and see encroachment as a continuation of the PPP government’s efforts to undermine the African Guyanese community and control their remaining sources of wealth.