Oct 16, 2020 Letters
From the outset let it be made clear, I am not condoning or encouraging squatting but what I find abhorrent is the means by which the government is seeking to deal with the squatting of citizens in Success, East Coast Demerara. These are the children of Guyana that successive governments have failed. I visited the area on Monday afternoon to get a firsthand understanding of what is happening.
It was overwhelming to witness the evidence of how cruel political operatives could be in their pursuit of getting their own way. These residents are being stripped of their dignity. Some told me they were living there more than a decade. I was advised by those residents that after the 2015 election they attempted to squat on lands, including an area along Enmore public road, and were advised by officials of the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) to go into the cane fields at Success. The PPP/C has one policy when in government and another when in opposition on the same issue.
I saw the access bridges that were broken down by the police and the flooded areas that are occupied by the residents who are now forced to live under worse conditions. The flooding is creating further public health hazards. This is not a case where lands are being flooded to prevent occupation; this is a case where people are already on the lands, in their homes and are being flooded, resulting in damage to clothes, household possessions, gardens and livestock. The emotional, health and financial costs to these citizens we must shoulder should we remain silent.
Whereas I do not condone taking land that does not belong to you this was encouraged by the current government. Those in Success are from the vulnerable class of people. Many are squatting because they cannot do better. Most squatters of this nature are not covetous land grabbers as those in Kingelly, West Coast Berbice. These are generally impoverished people with no means to acquire land, or are not being served properly by successive governments who have a responsibility to feed, clothe and house the nation through development projects and programmes.
These are the working class people of Guyana. They are working hard but cannot afford to own a piece of land in 83,000 square miles. It is unconscionable and unacceptable in their state of impoverishment and need the government would seek to flood their lands, affecting men, women and children, increasing the risk of skin disease, diarrhea and vector borne diseases such as the deadly leptospirosis. Flooding land in an area of pit latrine will create fecal over spilling. It is also interrupting any little thing these people can do to make a living. Society must condemn this, especially in these times. The Ministry of Health is being called on to address the needs of these people lest we have a public health outbreak.
The PPP/C prided itself as a working class party; Cheddie Jagan would never have flooded lands where people occupy. Never in the history of Guyana has any government, outside of the Donald Ramotar and Bharrat Jagdeo governments, deliberately embarked on creating a public health crisis as a tool of management. We saw what happened in Georgetown. Here in 2020, new President Irfaan Ali has embarked on a similar pathway as his predecessors. What manner of men are these? What manner of government conscious of health care deficiencies and needs would flood out lands where thousands of people are living? This is our Guyana once again.
Further, we must ask the question- how much difference would Success make to the proposed sugar manufacturing which can only survive anyhow with government subsidies? GuySuCo workers themselves should condemn what is happening to their fellow citizens in Success. Just how the government wants to care for sugar workers whom they see as vulnerable, the residents in Success too are deserving and in need. The treatment being meted out to them is unjust and inhumane and must be corrected.
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