Jul 13, 2013 News
A family said to be the heirs of land passed down through generations picketed the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission (GGMC) yesterday, for the agency’s alleged failure to intervene in a land dispute involving themselves and a businessman.
Siblings of the Benjamin family said that the property located at Sand Hills, Demerara River, has been family property since 1926. They claim that for some 20 years now, Dr. Grantley Walrond has imposed himself on their property and is conducting sand mining works at the location.
They say that Walrond recently approached the High Court and filed documents preventing the family from going on the said land. That was the straw that broke the camel’s back, Desmond Major said. At age 76, he was the most senior of the protestors.
Major said that the family has filed counter claims against Walrond and is due back in court by month end. In the case of GGMC, he said they are refusing to issue the businessman with a cease work order. He says that the authorities are not assisting and it is a case of “blatant bullism” on the businessman’s part.
Major said that on the first encounter with Walrond, the family property was in the process of being handed over from parents to children. The matter was in the court since 1993, but they only received official hand over on July 16, last year.
Walrond at the time, reportedly presented the family with documentation stating that he had permission to mine on the family property, which he claimed was state land. The family said the businessman also disregarded their land title and told them that it was false.
The Benjamins are saying however that their property, estimated at some 800 acres is not government land. Government property he said is situated behind the family land. Daphne Sampson said that he however started on her side of the property and has now moved over on her relative’s side.
She said while some family members live on the property, others would come and go since they use the property for farming activities. The woman said that she became ill for some time and had not visited her piece, but when she got word that Walrond had invaded her property, she came to the land, only to find that all her stuff had been graded.
She claimed having a small structure on the property that had furniture and other household items; that was also destroyed. Even the plants and food were graded, she said. Her mother and two other family members had been buried on the land; a papaw tree was planted at the head of her mother’s grave; that too she said was destroyed.
Despite numerous tries, Major said the GGMC has continued to “push them around.”
“Every day you go they tell you come back tomorrow. Come back, come back. That is all they say; from the Commissioner right down. Why are they afraid of this man? Who is he?” Major asked.
The Ministry of Natural Resources and the Environment has however issued a cease work order to be on the sand mining operations. The agency, in a release yesterday afternoon, said, “It is investigating the sand mining activities on a private property in Sand Hills, Demerara River following objections brought to the Ministry by residents of the Community.”
”As such, the Minister of Natural Resources and the Environment, Hon. Robert M. Persaud has directed the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission to issue a Cease Work Order to all parties pending a thorough investigation and satisfactory outcome.”
The matter, it was noted, is also engaging the attention of the court and the Cease Work Order will be enforced by the Commission until such time.
“The Ministry’s Guyana Geology and Mines Commission is once again urging members of the public to report illegal sand mining activities to the Commission or the nearest mining station,” the release concluded.
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