– official denies anyone injured during operation, says only empty structures taken down
Squatters at Anna Catherina, West Coast Demerara, (WCD) had ignored repeated warnings from the Central Housing and Planning Authority, (CH&PA) prior to a demolition exercise which occurred last Friday.
This was stated by an official after occupants of the demolished structures had claimed that the workers came without warning and destroyed their homes.
Speaking with this newspaper over the weekend, a CH&PA official noted the squatters were warned at least six times to desist from building homes along the reserve before the team moved against them.
“Those persons were well aware that they were building in violation of the CH&PA regulations. They were warned repeatedly but ignored the warnings. The CH&PA had even put a sign there warning them but they took down the sign and threw it away.”
Notices were also reportedly sent to the squatter, but they failed to comply.
The officer also said that the structures that were torn down were unoccupied. Two that had occupants, including women, were not demolished, and the persons who erected the structures have reportedly promised to move by today.
Meanwhile, the official noted that the demolition exercise did not involve the use of any force.
In addition, the CHPA team removed tools and a generator from one of the demolished structures, since they felt that the items would have been stolen had they remained there. The owner of the equipment has promised to uplift them today, the official stated.
“It was simple demolition exercise. No one was armed and nobody was hurt,” the official said.
“We went to there with regular tools required to conduct a demolition and as far we are aware, there was no need for added security.”
According to the official, the CH&PA has been monitoring the situation at Anna Catherina for some time.
“We have been monitoring the situation. In some situations, we assess and know that we would need the help of the police before conducting a safe demolition exercise. However, this was not the case, with Anna Catherina, the people there are not violent or aggressive so there was no need for that kind of back up.
There was absolutely no use for force…”
The official was responding to reports that the CHPA team, armed with crowbars and a sledgehammer stormed into the homes, and driven the occupants out without providing a shred of evidence that they were in fact from CH&PA.
The squatters claimed that in addition to destroying six wooden structures, the crew also damaged a number of household appliances in the process.
And in one instance, a resident claimed that a piece of wood fell and injured a child. However, officials attached the CH&PA vehemently denied the reports.
In her 2017 budget presentation, then Minister in charge of Housing Valerie Patterson noted that over the years, the CH&PA has consistently confronted situations of squatters across the country.
Patterson said that while some persons squat out of desperation, others do it as a means of economic gain.
“The latter group will go and occupy a parcel of land; erect a structure and then rent it, in some instances, for as much as $30,000 per month.”
To combat this, the Agency had decided on a menu of measures, which were recommended by the community leaders. Among the recommendation, Patterson said a Joint Anti-Squatting Taskforce was to be formed with other major stakeholders.
Additionally, the Minister had noted that discussions had been ongoing regarding the development of approximately 1,148 lots at various Plantations to alleviate the problem with squatting.
“Cummings Lodge and Industry for the possible relocation of squatters from Constituencies 5 and 6 Reserves, as well as from other zero tolerance areas in Georgetown and its environs. The intervention cost an estimated investment of G$2.65 billion for infrastructure development.”
Notwithstanding that, the Minister reported that for the previous year, 405 lots were formally allocated to squatters after payments were made (approximately 2,025 beneficiaries); 190 persons paid at least 50% of the cost of their lots and signed to commence processing for their titles, while 290 titles were already issued to persons in areas under regularisation.
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