GUYANA: The Flooding of the Success squatters – Stabroek News Editorial

While the squatters at Success were slowly being submerged under water and the police were firing pellet rounds, President Irfaan Ali was at the Providence Stadium in dream mode. He was attending the opening of a two-day exercise for the distribution of land titles called ‘Dream Realised’ held by the Ministry of Housing and Water.

Addressing himself to the squatters he said, “My brothers and sisters at Success… we want you to own your homes too; that is why we sent the housing team so many times to see you. We want to help you. We are going to move as fast as possible in this programme but I am appealing to Guyanese let us do it the right way.”         

The right way, as it turns out, is not something that can be accomplished quickly. The President, himself a former Minister of Housing, assured the crowd at the National Stadium that there were at least four new housing developments which would soon be embarked on, and that applicants from 2016 and before would be given priority. However, the 50,000 house lots which he has promised to distribute over the next five years will be developed as part of hubs, in order to create areas of density which would be connected by a transportation network. “We cannot talk about sustainability in a housing programme if we cannot create areas of density,” he said. “Areas of density create demand. Demand creates jobs, it creates new growth poles, new towns.”

This vision is to be achieved through public-private partnerships. The President said the government was “bringing together the hardware stores, the banks, the builders, the contractors, the developers, to achieve economies of scale,” and that by granting these businesses a ready market pool of, say, 25 houses it reduced their marketing and operational costs. Both the original concept with the added complexity of public-private arrangements, mean that these projected housing schemes are not about to materialise in the very short term, even if the Success squatters occupying GuySuCo land were given priority treatment.

Their story, like so many others in this country, is one of government inaction and confusion. Most of them did not arrive on the land yesterday, but have been there for some time.  Opposition leader Joseph Harmon was quick to jump into the fray, but the truth of the matter is that when APNU+AFC was in government they did nothing about the squatters, despite the fact that they, like their predecessors, pronounced squatting unacceptable. They have now bequeathed the problem to the present administration, in a situation where GuySuCo wants to reclaim its land for cane-growing purposes.

As has happened several times before, quite a number of the squatters are refusing to move, and it is likely that many of them genuinely do not have anywhere else to go. While some of them have been offered land, the bottom line is that there are no developments with the infrastructure already in place where they could be sent right now.  Since they have been given nothing as an alternative, they are resisting eviction.

This newspaper spoke to Jagnarine, for example, who used to be a taxi driver, but became unemployed because of the coronavirus pandemic, and was unable to pay the rent for his home any longer.  He said he had invested in his little house which he had built in May, after squatting in the area since March.  He had no other option, he said, and did not intend to move since he had already put money into his home.  “I never know cane so important to fight down the people so hard to cultivate cane,” he remarked. He was one of those who said he had applied for a house lot since 2003, and that nothing had happened.

Then there was Dalian, who told our reporter that before she started squatting she had been using her children’s child support money to pay the rent. Although it was intended for feeding the children, because of her very small income and unstable employment she could not afford the rent, and so what her child-father sent was diverted to ensure they had a roof over their heads.  Like several others we spoke to, she said she was not fighting for the GuySuCo land specifically, but for an allocation of land so she and her children could have a home. “I don’t want to fight the government,” she said.

For her part Abigail Baker accused GuySuCo of not approaching the squatters in the proper way, or giving them enough time, or offering a solution to the land issue. “I don’t mind giving up the land,” she said, “but where we gonna sleep tonight?” She then explained how the matter should have been approached: they should have given people notice, and if there were structures they should help to rebuild them because people’s money was involved.

The government flooded the land probably because they wanted to avoid scenes of the police tear-gassing mothers with small children. Flooding, however, is an equally dangerous tactic, if  more insidiously so, given the absence of adequate sanitation arrangements and the consequent danger of disease. It seems, however, that in any case the government did not confine itself to flooding. The squatters told Stabroek News that the police had opened fire on them without warning, and they insisted that despite the police statement about the attempted robbery on GuySuCo guards, no criminal activity had been involved. It was a matter, they said, of government excavators which were used to dig drainage for the water flooding the land being employed to break down their homes, and of them attempting to block them. It was then, they said, that the police discharged rounds of pellets at them. Some of them showed our reporter their injuries. One man named Carl said that the equipment from his house had been taken, because he was not there when the excavator demolished it.

The government has gone about this in the wrong way. The first thing they should have recognised is that there is a pandemic, and that more people are trying to eke out an existence below the breadline than is normally the case.

In addition, a lot of workers who were formerly employed are now jobless. They should have assumed, therefore, that a goodly proportion of the Success squatters may fall into one or another of these categories. Using excavators to destroy the few possessions of those, some of whom are already dispossessed, says nothing for the caring approach of the authorities.

Given the above, the second thing they should have taken into account is that a significant number of the squatters literally have nowhere else to go. Human considerations aside, it should have crossed their minds that the last thing they want politically speaking, would be news stories of single mothers with children, for example, living and begging on the streets.

Even if the government are prepared to offer house lots – and as indicated above they have said they are – they must have some temporary arrangements in place to accommodate these people in the meantime. In other words, you cannot move the squatters out unless you have somewhere to put them.   Ideally, that should not be somewhere temporary, but a piece of land. Even if the infrastructure is not quite ready as yet, work could be slated to start on it immediately and the Success people could still move there in the interim. Mr Harmon pointed to the example of Plastic City, where squatters were given assistance to move, and that should apply here too.

Even though this is not a problem of the current administration’s making, they are the ones who have to address it, and in doing that they cannot allow humanitarian concerns to be overwhelmed by agricultural demands.

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  • Voice of Reason  On 10/20/2020 at 12:38 am

    Of course the current administration is also responsible. They had 22 years to allocate lands for Guyanese to build homes. Just listen to the man who said he had applied for land since 2003 and still got nothing up to now. Instead the PPP ensured that the East Indians got all the best land. Now there’s Covid, families with children and other persons who are unemployed with no means of an income are being flooded out because they want the land to plant sugar cane….a crop that is no longer a commodity on the world market as people are adapting healthier ways of eating. All they want to do is rehire the East Indian workers that lost their jobs. Shameful. They’re not fooling anyone.

    • Dennis Albert  On 10/20/2020 at 7:00 am

      Surprising that Irfaan Ali, a Muslim, would treat others like how Muslims are treated in Burma, Palestine, Gaza, etc. He would learn how his religious followers are treated in those countries.

  • kamtanblog  On 10/20/2020 at 1:24 am

    Some very interesting points ….
    Q who owns most of lands in GT ?
    who owns most of lands in Guyana ?
    Who administers land
    distribution/exchanges titles ?
    Who decides what is farmland/
    Industrial/housing lands ?
    Is it local or central government ?

    Obviously more questions than answers.
    Many politicians worldwide are faced
    with similar dilemma in their land distribution/developments.
    Guyana is very fortunate to have
    83.000m2 to accommodate its 800.000
    population. Land reformation a priority.
    Development of its infrastructure is
    more and economic than political
    Simple Simon suggests
    Decision on who owns lands and title must
    remain a local not national one.
    Switzerland has cantons (communities)
    where decisions are made and upheld
    by central government by act of parliament.

    Interesting to read el presidents comments
    on private/public parthnerships. Hope it is
    not just words but put into practice.
    Guyana belongs to its people’s not
    to the highest bidders internally/externally.
    Russian American Chinese Indian or Brazilian
    For its people’s
    To its people’s
    By its people’s

    Guess that brands me a communist
    So was Cheddi for different reasons.
    Ended up in jail !
    So did Mandela and Ghandi !
    Radicals change the world
    Politicians can and do so with their
    Nationalistic hidden agendas.

    Off my soap box Hyde Park Corner London

    Kamtan uk-ex-EU

    • Dennis Albert  On 10/21/2020 at 8:18 pm

      Omai, RUSAL, Exxon, Bai Shai Lin, and those companies get 100 year agreements to hold thousands of square miles of land for exploitation. There are Portuguese Guyanese elite who own land that is larger than Trinidad or Jamaica.

  • Pendy  On 10/20/2020 at 6:17 am

    Ow Kamtan, try wid dem apostrophes nah…

  • detow  On 10/21/2020 at 4:55 pm

    OK Kamptam, a good one this time. With you all the way and am not communist, just know good ideas/suggestions when I see them.


    • kamtanblog  On 10/21/2020 at 5:08 pm

      Sometime I prefer “disagreements” with reason/s why as I learn more from them.
      And if don’t know answers usually gooogle
      for facts. And I still get it wrong sometimes.
      Am neither pope or professor !
      We never stop learning ….



  • Dennis Albert  On 10/25/2020 at 1:04 am

    Nigel Hinds live fuh see dat de PPP is ethnocentric. De PPP eye pass he but give benefits to Freddie Kissoon and Chris Ram:

    • kamtanblog  On 10/25/2020 at 2:02 am

      Information gives power to the people !

      Centuries ago a king in England claimed
      his power came from the guy in the sky
      The politician Cromwell claimed his power
      came from the people.
      The king lost his head “literally” …beheaded
      on the grounds of “blasphemy” …Cromwell
      also lost his head after signing the kings
      death warrant.
      History teaches fools
      Forget it at your peril
      Friends forgive but should never forget.

      My two cents

      • Dennis Albert  On 10/25/2020 at 8:08 am

        Freddie Kissoon and Chris Ram were highly critical of the PPP for many decades post-Jagan, but now they are silent on the Success issue, and you can read the repetitive antics of Freddie Kissoon recently.

        He is repeating an issue which has been dealt with ever since Lilian Chaterjee and Sarah Ann Lynch helped install democracy into our country.

        Nigel Hinds is realising that the coalition government was not as brutal, harsh and ethnocentric like the PPP.

        Freddie Kissoon has turned 360 and Chris Ram is currently employed with an agency of the PPP government. This doesn’t bode well.

        Speaking of well, brutal reincarnations of Ronald Waddell and Fineman might return with more might and resistance. The ethnic issue in Guyana is only getting worse with the installed “democracy”. At least Granger promised money and land to placate the oppressed groups.

        We are starting to believe that the PPP teamed up with Trump because the white man bad mind to see a country ruled by Granger turn into a “Dubai of the Caribbeans”. That slogan is only for the “Caucasians”, including people like Poonam Singh who get more backing from the elite than Lisa.

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