PNCR leader justifies exorbitant demands by Mocha squatters
Opposition Leader Aubrey Norton is attempting to justify the high compensation demands that are being made by the squatters of Cane View/Herstelling (Mocha), East Bank Demerara for their removal from Government reserves which they currently occupy.
Norton, during a press conference on Thursday, without any evidence claimed that the area the squatters occupy was not in the way of the Eccles-to-Great Diamond highway which the Housing Ministry is seeking to construct.
He also made claims that the lands are ‘ancestral lands’ that were purchased by slaves, as stated in the 1894 official gazette, and do not belong to the Government, adding that the offers made by the Ministry were “ridiculous”.
“Anyone who would have seen the figures that the Ministry put out as offering the people would know that that is ridiculous and it doesn’t cater for 1) the inconvenience caused by the Government to the people; 2), the fact that these are community lands… really and truly the Government doesn’t own these lands,” Norton remarked.
“There was no area to rear on the East Coast so they were prepared to give them some land on the highway. Now it will be stupid for somebody of little means to have their house on the East Bank, but then they farm on the highway, that is additional cost which they might not be able to afford,” Norton added.
He further said that though he could not say whether the demands made by the squatters were unreasonable or not, it should be taken into consideration when negotiating, that after the road has been completed the value of the lands could increase.
“It is not for me to decide whether it is reasonable or not. There are some things you should know about negotiations: 1) in negotiations people tend to go way above what they want because it is a process of negotiation and compromise and it might come down to what is acceptable to both parties. This is a road, when it is completed, those lands that now value 10 million in a very short time could value 200 million. So, in your negotiation for compensation that has to be taken into consideration,” Norton detailed.
According to Norton, “The people have the right, if the Government is a serious government what it will do is allow these people to have counsel, engage them and have a negotiation and if they resolve it and the people are satisfied, the people will take what is offered and move.”
In a notice published in Thursday’s edition of Guyana Times by the Housing and Water Ministry, it was indicated that seven individuals remain non-compliant and continue to stall the development of the Eccles-to-Great Diamond Highway – a road project that seeks to ease traffic congestion for thousands of commuters along the East Bank Demerara corridor.
Some 28 persons who were squatting on reserves have already been relocated from the path of the highway, and have built new homes in nearby residential areas through Government compensation.
The Ministry has disclosed that while it stood ready to make available move-in-ready, single-flat, two-bedroom housing units in the Little Diamond Housing Scheme for these seven non-compliant persons, these efforts have been met with harsh and irrational resistance.
“The seven squatters have been offered full compensation for their existing illegal property, a free residential house lot, a grace period to facilitate construction of their new homes, and five acres each of lease lands by the Guyana Lands and Surveys Commission. These offers have been rejected on all fronts,” the Ministry detailed in the Notice.
Of the seven squatters who are refusing removal, one woman, Lovella Doris, whose property has been valued at $7.2 million, is demanding $100 million along with the condition that she remained in the Cane View area despite being offered a two-bedroom, move-in-ready home.
Another squatter, Joyann Alexis Ellis is also asking for $100 million in farmlands in exchange for relocation from her property, which has been valued at $8.6 million even though she has been offered farmland at Long Creek, Linden-Soesdyke Highway.
Meanwhile, Junior Ellis had his property valued at $5.5 million, but is demanding $150 million, along with farmlands from Government. In relation to squatter Anneita Beaton, she signed the settlement agreement with the Housing Ministry, but has not uplifted the cheque, and is now asking for $45 million in addition to farmlands. Her property was valued at $14.3 million.
In the statement, it was revealed that some of these squatters have been served their notices since last year but still refuse to move.
Nevertheless, the Notice further stated, the Ministry, and the Government by extension, stands ready to work with all Guyanese in their best interest, but will no longer stand by and allow the nation’s development to be held hostage by illegal activities of any sort.
“Should the last offer be rejected by these illegal squatters, the Ministry will have no other choice but to proceed with a demolition exercise,” the Notice detailed.
However, on Thursday evening, four of the seven squatters – Lovella Doris, Joyann Alexis Ellis, Leon Liefde, and Mark Gordan accepted the Government’s offer to relocate.