MMA illegally takes 2000 acres of land from cattle ranchers – Chairman
… says decision should be revoked
By Lakhram Bhagirat
Chairman of the Abary Cattle Ranch Company Limited (ACRCL), Hemraj Kissoon, told the Commission of Inquiry (CoI) into ancestral land ownership that the Mahaica, Mahaicony, Abary-Agriculture Development Association (MMA) illegally took possession of some 2000 acres of land that belonged to the company without any reason or explanation. He added that the decision should be revoked and the land should be transported and returned to the company.
Providing a background of the ACRCL, Kissoon said the company is a limited liability company which has been in existence since 1909 with the responsibility for fattening animals in the Abary area. He said that they have over 3000 heads of cattle, utilising approximately 7784 acres of land. However, he noted that this amount of land is not sufficient with each head of cattle, requiring at least four acres of land to graze since sections of the land is swampy and grass does not grow in some parts.
He explained that the lands owned are leased, free to hold, titled, DHMP (During Her Majesty Pleasure now During His Excellency Pleasure) and land under permission and that the ACRCL have documentation for all of the land it owns. He tendered a number of those documents to the CoI as evidence to support his claim. However, in 2015 following a survey, the MMA, without any explanation or reasoning, took possession of over 2000 acres of DHMP and leased land from the company. Kissoon added that when the lands were taken they wrote to the MMA objecting the decision but they are yet to receive any response. Detailing the work and history of the ACRCL, Kissoon explained that prior to the MMA, the company had its own drainage network to irrigate their lands. “The canal and conservancy was built on it (the ACRCL land). The conservancy took away some of it. The main canal divides the land in two because it runs from North to South into the conservancy. It is written down from the MMA to the farmers that any problems come about they would resolve all of it. If you lose land they will give you alternative land, they will pay you for it or they give you compensation one way or the other. All of this was decided with the MMA and farmers before they started the (MMA) scheme,” Kissoon related.
He further related that although their lands have been surveyed and properly demarcated, they were asked by the MMA to have the land surveyed and had to pay some $3 million to have that done. He related that after the ACRCL made the payment the land was surveyed and the combined 2000 acres were taken from them. He proposed that the land be given back to them and transported so that they can continue their rearing.
A representative from the Paradise Multi-Purpose Co-op told the CoI that they would like to have back their farmlands in Enmore, Hope, Foulis and Bachelors Adventure on the East Coast of Demerara. He related that the lands are ancestral lands taken up by the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo) and later abandoned. He is also seeking reparations from GuySuCo.
President David Granger in March of this year established the CoI under the Commission of Inquiry Act, to examine and make recommendations to resolve all issues and uncertainties surrounding the claims of Amerindian land titling; the individual, joint or communal ownership of lands acquired by freed Africans, and any matters relating to land titling in Guyana.
The Commission is headed by Reverend Oswald Peter Chuck-A-Sang, and includes Paulette Henry, David James, Carol Khan-James, Professor Rudolph James, Lennox Caleb and Berlinda Persaud. The public hearings are being conducted at the GL&SC Secretariat in D’Urban Backlands.