The government is wasting its time and the resources of the State in preparing a shelter for those would-be squatters at Success. The squatting was essentially a land grabbing exercise and those who were involved are not going to go to any shelter.
They have homes to which they can return. As was observed by one of the government teams which visited the location, none of the structures established on the cane lands are permanent. The few structures on site are really just there as markers and to be used to establish the owners’ occupancy so that others do not go and occupy the same plot.
This is something that even happens in established housing schemes. Someone who owns a property is given a government plot and in order not to have to surrender it, they build a make-shift structure on site to deceive the housing authorities into believing that they have begun construction.
The mad grab for land at Success is not the first time that an attempt has been made to occupy GuySuCo’s lands on the East Coast. After the Coalition won the 2015 elections, a similar activity took place. Persons began to put down markers, identifying plots which they intended to occupy.
The APNU+AFC did not entertain this. It shut down the intended squatting early. The APNU+AFC government intimated, in no uncertain manner, that this was not the approach to be taken and that squatting would not be condoned. This was the response of the APNU+AFC to what it described as massive land-grabbing exercise which began as soon as the Coalition took office and which stretched from the East Bank to the East Coast of Demerara.
On the 28th May 2015, the Central Planning and Housing Authority (CH&PA) issued a statement calling attention to what it described as a systematic land grabbing exercise. The CH&PA noted that persons were involved in grabbing lands in areas which included Sophia, Mon Repos, Enmore, Haslington, Nabaclis, Hope Experiment, and Bush Lot. It said that persons were demarcating lands with the intention of squatting and some had even falsely claimed that President Granger had instructed this.
The CH&PA urged those engaging in squatting to desist from doing so, saying that lands squatted on, after 1st January 1998, would not be regularized. It said that persons would have the opportunity to own their own lands by applying through the Authority. Under the APNU+AFC, the CH&PA promised that Guyanese would be given fair and equitable access to land. The CH&PA also pointed out that squatting is illegal and that those engaged could face prosecution, according to reports in the media.
The APNU+AFC effectively shut down the squatter-rush, which was taking place. There was no talk then about the need for the State to negotiate anything with the squatters. There was no talk about inhumane treatment. There was no reference to anyone resigning his or her position because of the government’s action in aborting the squatters.
No special outreach was held to register those attempting to squat. However, five years onwards and the same thing happens and there is now an outpouring of self-righteousness indignation. We hear about the need for some settlement to be reached.
A settlement has been initiated. The PPP/C government has engaged the squatters. The Central Housing and Planning Authority has met and registered the squatters. It has offered assistance and said it is willing to work with the persons concerned to find accommodation.
In other words, these persons have already been given preferences. There are persons with housing applications in the system. In fact, the government has said there is a backlog of over 60,000 housing applications. Why should these persons be bypassed in favour of those who opted to break the law by illegal squatting?
Those who attempted to squat at Success are not going into any shelter. They have homes to which they can return. They were living somewhere before they suddenly made their move to occupy those sugar lands. They were not living on the streets.
The Civil Defence Commission is wasting its time and resources establishing a shelter at a school. It is not likely that any of the Success squatters will be occupying that shelter.
But the folks who live in the stands at Burnham Court and D’Urban Park may want to consider making a trek up to the shelter. They will get free food, a warm bed and a blanket. But no dope!
(The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of this newspaper.)
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