By Kiana Wilburg
The lands of Plaisance village which were bought by freed slaves and used to promote the
economic sustainability of its residents for years, is now under threat. Yesterday morning, police officers allegedly made it pellucidly clear to the residents that they would no longer be allowed to access the lands passed on to them by their African ancestors.
Angered by the move, the villagers staged a protest in front of the Plaisance Neighbourhood Democratic Council (NDC) to register their disapproval about what they dub a ‘takeover of inherited land by the government which will sooner or later be gifted to foreign investors.’
Approximately 35 villagers stood outside of the NDC at 9:00am with placards some of which read, “We are up against unusual situations but we will not give up,” “The will of the people will remain strong,” “We need development in our community, not imposition,” and “Our ancestors have laid the foundation. We deserve our inheritance.”
According to the residents, when the village was bought, the contract agreement was that the populace would occupy the southern half of the land while the northern part, the back lands, will be used for economic activities. However, this age-old agreement, the residents believe, seems to have been disregarded. They are of the firm opinion that the government may just be up to “something that may result in benefitting only a selected few.”
The villagers were most appalled by the fact that government seemed to have instructed the removal of bridges constructed by the residents which once served as the pathway to the backlands.
“They had some excavators here early this morning breaking up the bridges and we telling them to stop and they didn’t listen to us. We heard of the plan to take away our lands and placed some pickets by the edge of the land to let them know that we were not happy about that and the police just took all out early this morning,” one irate resident said.
When this publication arrived on the scene, there was a police van and minibus full of police officers who guarded the lands that were “intentionally flooded” after the bridges were removed.
The protest which continued in front of the Plaisance NDC summoned the presence of approximately eleven police officers. Residents who spoke to this publication expressed fear and requested that their names be withheld for fear of being individually targeted and harmed.
One 43-year-old mother of three said, “We have two problems going on here. We have a lady at the NDC and she is the overseer and she has been working here for the past 15 years and now they want to take her out and replace her with a man that has no experience with local government or nothing. He is coming like another Carol Sooba. This government developing a pattern and we are not fools. We could see it. They want to place their own people in certain places to make our lives miserable, run us out of here and eventually sell our lands to the foreign people. That is what they want to do but we will not allow it. We will stand strong.”
When Kaieteur News attempted to speak with several employees at the NDC, they refused to comment.
An 88-year-old resident of Plaisance added, “My great grandfather grew up in this neighbourhood and so did all my ancestors. My whole life story is in this village. What my parents struggle to get now is being threatened. All my life, I know that if you own the lands in front of the Plaisance village then a section at the back dam was given to you so that you can plant your vegetables or get into your little farming activity and make a living for yourself. Why does the government want to take this from us now? Why they have the police treating us like if we are dogs, breaking up the bridges and threatening to harm us if we try to get across to our lands?”
Another villager said, “This is the time where we need to see the Opposition leaders stand with us. I think that Mr. Granger (Leader of the A Partnership for National Unity, David Granger) and the people of the Alliance For Change need to come stand strong with us. We need to see you here with us Mr. Granger and Mr. Ramjattan. We need your support against this government. We want to see you here with us. We are frustrated. We voted for you. Where are our leaders when we need them here?”
The villagers are of the belief that their lands are being sold to “Chinese and Indian hotel investors” and said that if it is indeed being sold, then the residents of Plaisance who have been toiling on it for years, should get first preference.
The residents said that they will continue to protest until they see significant changes. Another peaceful protest is expected to take place on Friday.
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