CDC conducting needs assessment of Success squatters – PM Mark Phillips
…Graham’s Hall school being prepped as shelter even as squatters refuse to relocate
The Civil Defence Commission (CDC) is currently conducting as a needs assessment of the squatters at Success, East Coast Demerara, while simultaneously preparing the Graham’s Hall Primary School as a potential shelter for those persons.
On Saturday, Prime Minister Brigadier Mark Phillips visited the area and offered shelter to the persons squatting on lands belonging to the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo). However, this offer was rejected by the squatters, who are still refusing to remove from the lands even as GuySuCo is preparing to resume cultivation of sugar canes.
When contacted on Sunday, Prime Minister Phillips told Guyana Times that despite the refusal to take up Government’s offer, a location for the shelter was nevertheless identified – Graham’s Hall Primary at Cummings Lodge, ECD – and efforts are being undertaken to prepare the school for occupation.
In the meantime, he noted that a needs assessment is being carried out by the CDC to ascertain how many persons and/or families should be catered for.
“The people said no [to Government’s offer] but we’re still going ahead with the survey so as to identify how many people will need some form of shelter. With the flooding likely to be continued, you may reach a point where the people who refusing now will suddenly say they need a shelter so we have to be ready,” the Prime Minister explained.
Meanwhile, Director General of the CDC, Lieutenant Colonel Kester Craig, told this newspaper that the needs assessment is likely to be completed today.
“We’re trying to ascertain how many households in there, how many structures so people are still working there. It’s a very vast area, not a small area,” he stated.
Nevertheless, the CDC Head explained that on Sunday they prepared the school by cleaning and sanitising the building, installing adequate washroom facilities and setting up sleeping areas for the squatters to relocate, if or whenever they wish to do so.
Overnight packages including hygienic supplies such as toothpaste and toothbrushes, as well as blankets and pillows were laid out.
“This place will still be available and… if anybody wants to come and sleep here, they can come,” Lieutenant Colonel Craig stated.
In a subsequent release, the CDC said the humanitarian crisis of displaced residents requires immediate action to stem migratory and health issues, especially during the current COVID-19 pandemic.
The CDC Head noted that those affected by the flooding at Success can immediately contact the National Emergency Management System (NEMS) on 226-1114, 623-1700 and 600-7500 and make their way to the Graham’s Hall Primary School, where they will be housed.
Squatters have been occupying lands in various communities along the East Coast of Demerara including at Vryheid’s Lust, Success, and Chateau Margot. However, with GuySuCo now embarking on efforts to revitalise the sugar industry by reopening three estates closed by the APNU/AFC regime including the East Demerara Estate (Enmore), which is expected to recommence operations early 2022, attempts have been made to remove the squatters from the lands.
In fact, the Central Housing and Planning Authority (CH&PA) has visited the area to commence the land application process for unlawful occupants, so that they could be eligible for a house lot. Arrangements are being made for other parcels of land to be made available.
It was previously reported that lands in 22 areas on the East Coast, East Bank, and West Bank Demerara; Linden; Berbice and Essequibo were approved in the 2020 Emergency Budget and this publication understands that allocations for the residents will fall under this project.
But still many are refusing to relocate from the squatting areas.
On Friday, President Irfaan Ali in addressing the issue urged those persons squatting at Success to accept the lawful method of acquiring home-ownership.
“Let me say to my brothers and sisters at Success, who we’ve reached out to on many occasions, it is not that we want you to be dislodged in the area. We want you to own your own homes too. That is why we sent the Housing team to see you. But there’s a right way in doing things and a wrong way. In Guyana, we have to get accustomed to doing things the right way. Otherwise, we’ll be developing communities that are not successful. We want to help you. We are going to move as fast as possible in this programme,” the Head of State noted.
GuySuCo had disclosed that some 17,000 varieties of sugarcane have been damaged by the squatters in those areas.
GuySuCo’s Chief Executive Officer, Sasenarine Singh was quoted as saying that while the squatters have been affected by steps taken in preparation for the recommencement of operation, the successful outcomes from the sugar mills at Enmore require a supply of one-year-old matured sugar canes. As a result, land tillage needs to commence next January.
It was against this backdrop that the sugar corporation on Thursday last flooded the field including the area where the squatters are occupying at Success, where a majority of the persons have taken up illegal occupancy.
However, the inundation of the plots at Success led to an escalation of the situation as armed men pounced on a security guard stationed at the Success backlands, disarmed him and shot at a drainage pump before escaping on a motorcycle.
Meanwhile, there has been outrage from some quarters over the treatment of those persons at Success. In fact, National Industrial and Commercial Investments Limited (NICIL) Board member, Nigel Hinds has since reportedly tendered his resignation over his disagreement with the decision to flood the lands while persons were still occupying same.