Oct 19, 2020 News
– urges government to desist from inhumane removal tactics
Kaieteur News – With the Success squatters refusing to budge from their firm stance, Leader of the Opposition, Joseph Harmon, called on the ruling People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) government to desist from using “inhumane” tactics in order to force the dwellers to remove from the land.
Just a few days ago, the state-owned Guyana Sugar Corporation Incorporated (GuySuCo) flooded a large section of the lands being occupied by the squatters on the East Coast of Demerara.
While a majority opted to vacate the lands on the premise that it was a calculated move by GuySuCo to flush them out, a significant number still remained, insisting that the flood will not “hamper their existence.”
Things then escalated after actions by law enforcement officers resulted in a number of squatters being shot and injured with rubber pellets.
These steps, according to Harmon, should have never been taken and sends the wrong message.
“Since this thing started,” Harmon relayed to the squatters, “I have said that government response is wrong, that they have to find a way of regularizing the situation because many have been affected by the COVID-19, people have been affected by their inability to pay rent and many of them have been thrown out on the streets.”
“Their response cannot be…flooding people and shooting them, it cannot be,” he added.
One woman relayed her plight to the Opposition leader, stating: “We are people too; I don’t have nowhere to go. Since the COVID-19, I get knocked off. I don’t have anywhere to work, this [what I am wearing] is all my clothes. Where am I going to go? Where are we going to go?”
Many of the dwellers reside in shacks with little sheltering capacity and with the lands now being inundated; they are now forced to live under worse conditions with significant loss to their makeshift homes, clothing, household possessions, gardens and livestock.
Harmon underscored that “there is enough land for everyone” but admitted that they must function within regulated communities.
“It is the state that must negotiate with you to find a settlement which allows for regularization…we will have to keep engaging the state to ensure that we have an outcome that is reasonable given the circumstance,” he said.
GuySuCo has been trying to get the squatters out of the area since September of this year. The first instance was during a visit to the Success area by GuySuCo and the National Industrial and Commercial Investments Limited (NICIL) officials.
This resulted in a stand-off between the officials and the squatters that saw police intervention. Following that protest action, several others erupted over the following weeks as squatters maintained that unless they were given lands, they were not moving.
Later on, GuySuCo issued a notice to squatters occupying the East Coast lands which included Success, Vryheid’s Lust and Chateau Margot, warning them that the lands were a part of GuySuCo’s Cane Breeding and Research Station at the Enmore/La Bonne Intention Estate.
The CEO had also reported that GuySuCo is mandated by the government to prepare the lands for cultivation, with plans to restart operations at the Enmore Sugar Factory as early as 2022.
A housing drive was held by the Housing Ministry subsequently to enable the squatters to legally obtain their own lands, but many of them contended that even though it was a good initiative, they would not be receiving these lands urgently and would still be without a place to live if they moved.
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