Last Updated on Wednesday, 22 February 2023, 19:13 by Denis Chabrol
A day after a company withdrew High Court action in its bid to acquire 143.10 acres of privately-owned land at Beterverwagting, East Coast Demerara after it had been controversially sold, Neighbourhood Councillor Elton Mc Rae said residents now needed help to gain access to their parcels of the land.
Mr Mc Rae called on the Neighbourhood Council and Central Government to provide landowners with drainage and irrigation so that they could eventually engage in farming. “I see the villagers having to make decisions as to how they will access the lands and those decisions will have to be enacted by Council and government,” said Mr Mc Rae who had moved to the court to block the disposal of the acreage at Section ‘G’, Beterverwagting. He noted that since in the 1970s, government has not been servicing the drainage and irrigation infrastructure for those lands, but in 2017 “there was an attempt to do some works” which did not meet the requirements and “no work” was done in Section ‘G’.
High Court Judge Gino Persaud blistered all of the litigants in the matter after Mohamed and Sons and Daughters, Trading, Mining, Logging and Construction Inc. withdrew its request for the Registrar to proceed with conveyancing so that transport could have been granted. “This case reeks of all kinds of offensive odours from the beginning involving John Fernandes Limited, the applicant Mohamed Sons and Daughters and everyone is complicit in this,” he said.
The Council had initially sold the land to John Fernandes Limited for GY$35 million but when residents came forward and showed proof of ownership, the Council eventually refunded the GY$20 million downpayment. But John Fernandes Limited refused the money saying that it no longer had any interest in the land and had transferred its interest to Mohamed and Sons and Daughters, Trading, Mining, Logging and Construction Inc.
Assuming that the drainage and irrigations works are done in that area of Beterverwagting, Mr Mc Rae could not say how many persons would actually make good on their intention to access the land. He believed that landowners would prefer to use the land for agriculture purposes. “Taking it all up for residential would mean that we have no productive capacity at the end of the day which will provide employment for a segment of the population because we will not all be officers of the government or businessmen, the commercial sector, tradesmen. We will still have to get food which is an essential,” he said.
Councillor Mc Rae conceded that there was not a great degree of enthusiasm for agriculture. “There are a few people who are willing to go and some have even been farming on other people’s lands up in the front areas,” he said.
Other than drainage and irrigation, he said the Neighbourhood Council should reconstruct its records on lands in the village because a lot of them were taken from inside the building to the lower flat where they were damaged by flood. “They will have to build back those records, reconstruct the records of the community,” he said.
The reconstruction of records, he said, would require the Council to hire more staff. He also said councillors need to understand their role.
Mr Mc Rae said he would be raising the outcome of the High Court case and the need for Councillors to be aware of village politics and village history so that would not be enticed to sell the lands. He accused a top People’s Progressive Party official of informing another person that the land was owned by the village and that it could have been sold. “Even if is village land, the villagers must decide what must be done with the land’ even if it was not owned by way of transport, if it was communal land. You cannot at the Council level cannot make that decision,” he said.