Agriculture Minister Dr. Leslie Ramsammy yesterday said that the issues surrounding the destruction of several acres of farm lands by Chinese workers from the China Harbour Engineering Company currently undertaking the Cheddi Jagan International Airport extension project, were out of his hands.
Two Fridays ago the Chinese workers destroyed several acres of crops belonging to farmers at Timehri. The crops were said to be worth millions of dollars. After the incident the Minister had expressed dismay at the reports.
Yesterday the Minister said that he was told that the farmers had several notices served on them before the workers came to the area.
Ramsammy told Kaieteur News that from what he was told the farmers were “squatting” on the land and once that’s the case they cannot remain there.
“If they are squatting then told to leave the land, you cannot put permanent crops there,” the minister said. He urged the farmers to recognize that they were squatting and at some point in time they would have had to move.
Efforts yesterday to contact Minister of Public Works Robeson Benn to solicit a comment proved futile. This newspaper was told that the workers came with excavators to level the land, but residents protested. The workers eventually called in the police who instructed the residents to remove. The workers returned the following morning and began excavating the area.
Steven Edwards, a father of five, was in tears when he said that he had been farming at the location for more than 18 years.
Edwards said that several other elders from the community who had cleared away the forest areas, had begun farming there. The man said that his entire eight acres of crops that included eddoes, sweet potatoes, pears, bananas and coconuts were destroyed.
Edwards had told Kaieteur News that while he’s not against development in the country, the government should have thought about the problems which would have been associated with the project.
“The government just come and decides that we have to move…Move and go where? I farming here for 18 years…working hard to maintain my family and just like that everything is destroyed.”
Another farmer, Royston Holder, told Kaieteur News that he has been in the area for almost 16 years. Holder plants eddoes, coconuts and other “cash crops”. He too was in tears as he spoke to Kaieteur News. Holder said that since the government is insisting that they move they should make preparations for them to farm elsewhere.
“They want us to move but them not saying where we going to go…I’m a Guyanese and I can’t go to China and do what these Chinese people doing to we,” Holder said. This new development would definitely send a distasteful message to the Caribbean States which participated in the recent week-long activities at the Caribbean Week of Agriculture.
Recently Public Works Minister Robeson Benn said that some 70 house lots are being sought for Timehri North residents, who are in the immediate path of the Cheddi Jagan International Airport (CJIA) extension project.
Benn had stated that the housing process is being facilitated by the CJIA. He said that airport officials and the Public Works Ministry have already written to the Housing Ministry for 70 house lots which would be given to those persons immediately affected by the airport’s extension.
Back in April the authorities at the country’s only International Airport were stymied by the decision of the National Assembly to cut funding for its extension plan by $5.3 billion and were uncertain about the status of the project.
The Opposition, in effecting the budget cut, had argued that the government has been less than transparent on the extension plan for the Cheddi Jagan International Airport (CJIA).
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