By Vishani Ragobeer
VICE-PRESIDENT Dr. Bharrat Jagdeo said that the government will provide assistance to some of the squatters occupying lands illegally at Success on the East Coast of Demerara (ECD).
Squatters have been occupying the Success lands that belong to the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo) for months. The Corporation has begun flooding the lands to prepare for the resumption of cultivation after years of dormancy and it has been emphasised that these persons cannot stay on the lands.
Recently, some of these squatters took their plight to State House where they were able to meet with Vice-President Bharrat Jagdeo. During an interview with the Guyana Chronicle on Monday, Dr. Jagdeo said that the group seemed “very genuine.”
Subsequently, the Vice-President organised a meeting between the group and the Minister of Housing and Water, Collin Croal.
“This is GuySuCo’s land but the government’s intention is to help people, all of the people who have legitimate needs who are now at Success, but it has to be done in a manner that prioritises those who have urgent needs (as opposed to) those who are just land grabbers,” the Vice-President told this newspaper.
Importantly, he mentioned that the government will provide those squatters with genuine challenges with a “permanent place… a piece of land.”
The challenge, however, is that there are several other persons who began occupying the Success lands after they were told that the government would regularise the land. This is not the case, as the Success lands are needed for cultivation of sugarcane as production at the Enmore Estate will restart soon.
Many of the squatters have lamented that they have been occupying these lands because the COVID-19 pandemic has drastically affected them, leaving them with no other alternative.
Dallyan (only name given) said that she has nowhere else to go, but indicated that if the government provides her with a permanent house lot elsewhere, she would readily move there. The woman said that she has no qualms paying for this space.
Another squatter, Junior (only name given) said that he has applied for a house lot since 2015 and he has not yet been successful.
“I would move right away if they (the government) give me a piece of land to live somewhere else,” Junior said. “I just want my own place to rest my head.”
Recently, the Central Housing and Planning Authority (CH&PA) began streamlining the land applications of squatters occupying those lands unlawfully, in an attempt to provide some redress. The CEO of the CH&PA, Sherywn Greaves, in an invited comment, said that the authority was doing all that it could to assist those persons, but the authority is still distributing lands in a structured manner — giving lands to persons with the oldest applications first.
On Saturday, Prime Minister, Brigadier (ret’d) Mark Phillips, met with the squatters at Success and offered to set up a temporary shelter nearby for them but this offer was not met with a favourable response. Despite this, the Civil Defence Commission (CDC) has prepared the Graham’s Hall Primary school to be used as a shelter.