Oct 17, 2020 Editorial
Kaieteur News – In the Bible, the righteous and volatile God of the Old Testament devised various creative methods of dealing with the sinful – striking them with lightening, turning them to salt, sending plague and pestilence upon them. These were largely for individual or community sins.
The ultimately genocidal ‘Act of God’, however, was deliberate flooding, wiping out all of the world’s inhabitants except for, as the Scripture tells us, the few righteous people in Noah’s ark and the several animals that they carried on to it.
In the past week, the squatters at Success have had to pay for their sins of occupying State land by the flooding of the place, which they illegally occupy, not by God, but by another powerful capital G entity, GuySuCo. After putting out a press release stating that the persons occupying the lands had destroyed “billions” in crops and research, and giving a short notice for the squatters to leave the land, the state-owned, state-run company then proceeded to flood the place not for any clear, urgent agricultural purpose but in order for the squatters to leave. In brief, not an act of God but an act of Gov.
For Guyanese who lived through the trauma of the Great Flood of 2005, the deluge that covered the East Coast for weeks and caused untold amounts of damage to lives, livelihoods and property, the State engaging in the deliberate flooding on an inhabited space – whatever the rationale – should be seen as unconscionable. This tactic, used as a tool for dislocation of a civilian population, would be unethical in war, not merely due to the direct distress it puts on that population but also due to the inhumane conditions the flooding of an area actively occupied by people poses, particularly with regard to the spread of disease. In normal circumstances, as we discovered in 2005, flood-amplified illnesses such as leptospirosis result in a clear public health danger. In the era of COVID-19, a fairly large group of persons in the most densely populated region in the country having their immune systems compromised by the deliberate and completely unavoidable action of a state company is not only cruel but arguably outright psychopathic.
To be clear, a precedent cannot be set of persons simply squatting upon land and occupying it, disregarding any semblance of law and order. A too-soft hand on this sort of behaviour is the recipe for anarchy and chaos. The government should neither capitulate to land-grabbers nor should it be held at ransom by them. However, a worse precedent is set when the state response to land-grabbing is Old Testament methodology. The technical legality of the power to flood the lands being squatted upon does not equate to the moral or ethical right to do so.
No doubt someone high in public office saw this as a more elegant, more creative solution than the sort of confrontation we have seen before, armed police in conflict with squatters and the breaking down of living structures, streamed live on social media. That person was wrong.
The administration has otherwise breathed new life into a housing drive that had become stagnated, moribund under its predecessor – inhumane action has no place in the treatment of any citizen country, particularly when it comes to what should be fundamental right – the right to housing – in this place where land is so bountiful and the population so relatively small. As the situation currently stands, the situation at Success, in how government is dealing with the squatters, represents an abject failure in public policy.
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