By Vishani Ragobeer
SQUATTERS occupying the lands at Success, East Coast Demerara (ECD) are trickling in to the shelter set up at the Graham’s Hall Primary School to accommodate them.
As of 18:00 hours on Tuesday, there was only one squatter present at the shelter, but three others were expected to make their way there later that night, according to Director-General of the Civil Defence Commission (CDC), Lieutenant Colonel Kester Craig.
In an invited comment, Craig explained that some of the squatters had indicated they would need shelter during the CDC’s registration and assessment exercise done at Success on Sunday.
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.
At the shelter, there are 48 beds spread across several of the classrooms. There are several amenities, including a kitchen and washroom facilities, and adequate santisation facilities in light of the OCVID-19 pandemic. Meals are being provided for the squatters.
When asked how long these squatters will be allowed to stay there, the director-general noted that the Commission is working based on directives from the Prime Minister, Brigadier (ret’d) Mark Phillips. He, however, highlighted that the CDC is equipped to provide shelter to these persons for “a while”.
On Sunday, the Guyana Chronicle visited the squatting area while the CDC was engaging in its assessment exercise. There, Senior CDC Response Officer, Captain Salim October explained to this newspaper that the squatters’ length of stay in the shelter is contingent upon the actions other ministries or bodies may take to assist them.
At the time, October could not say how many squatters were interested in using the shelter, but it was subsequently reported that of the 166 persons engaged through the CDC’s assessment, only seven families indicated that they needed shelter.
“We do not wait until there is an escalation of a problem, then to put the necessary and appropriate facilities in place. What we’re doing is anticipating that if the conditions worsen, and people don’t have anywhere else to go, we do have a facility that would be ready by the end of the day for persons who need to be housed in a shelter,” October had said on Sunday.
On Monday, however, Vice-President Bharrat Jagdeo told this newspaper that the Government would provide those squatters that are vulnerable with “a piece of land”.
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 the Authority was doing all that it could to assist those persons, but that it is still distributing lands in a structured manner — giving lands to persons with the oldest applications first.