The PPP knew all along about the major land deals that the PNC entered into.
They know that this information will establish beyond any doubt that that party only had a working class façade, but that upon closer examination was always deep in the clutches of the land-owning class.
Land was given to the tillers but only small acreages that tied the small farmer to the land in a subsistence arrangement, never enough to make him the “real man.”
The larger acreages were reserved for the rich, powerful and those with the connections. Thousands of acres were given away to the rich, acreages that were far too much land for any one man in a country with acute levels of poverty.
Just before the PPP took office, the PNC gave a rice magnate thousands of acres of land.
That was a controversial deal because there were persons even within the PNC- and Hammy can confirm this – who were opposed to that deal feeling that the amount of land was too much.
The PPP also felt the same way and months after Dr. Cheddi Jagan took office began the process of negotiating the return of a considerable portion of that land to the State for eventual distribution to small farmers.
Cheddi knew what would have been the political and social implications of all that land being in the hands of one family and therefore sought to ensure that there was some balance between the investment of this large farmer and the demand for land by the small farmers.
It showed that he was not out to cripple the large farmers just in order to give in to the demands of the small farmers, but was prepared to have an agreement that both sides could live with.
During that period, he made the shocking announcement that 5% of the population owned 70% of the land in Guyana. But he did not name the members of the 5%, but information is now being made public that the rice magnate was not the only person who had to return thousands of acres of land.
The PNC also gave to one Mr. Lumumba, thousands of acres of lands in different parts of the country and he too was asked to return a significant portion of those lands which we were told he did.
In a subsequent column, the controversial sale of a plot of land to Mr. Lumumba will be dealt with but for today the focus is on land ownership in Guyana, something that remains a political and economic hot potato since, as is well known, well drained, irrigated and fertile lands are in great demand and not always readily available to those he had from the State.
The question that has never been answered in Guyana is who are the persons that comprise the 5% of the population that during the PNC’s terms in office accounted for 70% of the total lands owned. The PPP has never published the names of these individuals, families and companies and this may also have something to do with the fact that the propertied class has always known how to ingratiate themselves with the ruling political elite.
They did it with the PNC to the extent that they controlled the greatest percentage of lands in Guyana and they have no doubt done it with the PPP, even though that party has distributed thousands of acres of land to small farmers.
The PPP should publish the names of all those individuals, each of whom were able to obtain in excess of 500 acres of land during the tenure of the PNC – in that party’s twenty-eight unbroken years in office. The public needs to know who are the persons who have large acreages of government lands and how productive are these lands, especially since there have been threats to repossess agricultural lands that are left idle.
So who benefited more from the PNC’s land distribution program and if the PNC had so much land to give to Mr. Lumumba, why did it not sustain its housing drive and make lands available to the thousands of Guyanese who wanted to own their own homes?
But the PPP also has its own controversial record, including thousands of acres given to select individuals, some of whom have not done anything with these lands.
The PPP should also publish the names of all those individuals who have each acquired more than five hundred acres of land so that the record can be set straight also as to whose interests are more paramount for that party.
This can be a question that can be laid in the National Assembly.
The answers I believe will expose the farcical claim that both the PPP and the PNC were working class vanguard parties. The only interests that these parties ever championed were those of the propertied class, which remains today, closeted but still very powerful and influential.
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