Mocha residents insulted at moves to relocate squatters to community

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By Devina Samaroo

Majority of residents residing in Mocha/Arcadia on the East Bank of Demerara (EBD) are against government’s unilateral decision to relocate Lombard/Broad Street squatters to their community, citing concerns about dumping an entire village with its own problems into a neighbourhood already plagued with social ills.

Some of the prevailing reasons why the residents disapprove of the decision are:

  • It was imposed by the Central Housing and Planning Authority (CH&PA) without any prior consultation with the Neighbourhood Democratic Council (NDC).
  • The lands proposed for the squatters are currently being used for farming by villagers.
  • Residents in the community have applied for their own house lots for years but their applications are not yet processed.
  • The individuals residing in Lombard/Broad Streets are of questionable character.
  • The proposed area for the squatters has been without electricity for over 20 years.

CONSULTATIONS

NDC Chairman Rudolph Adams

Valerie Patterson-Yearwood, the Minister within the Ministry of Communities with responsibility for Housing, had announced that the government in collaboration with the Food for the Poor organization will be building houses in Barnwell [behind Mocha] for some 49 families who are currently squatting on the corner of Lombard and Broad Streets, Georgetown.

At a press conference on Saturday, October 14, 2017, Chairman of the Mocha/Arcadia Neighbourhood Democratic Council (NDC), Rudolph Adams, said it was through the media reports that residents were aware of this decision and that the Councillors immediately sought a meeting with representatives from the CH&PA to discuss the matter.

Adams said the meeting was held on September 11 when representatives apologised for not consulting with the community.  According to Adams, the move by the Ministry to bypass the NDC flies in the face of promises by President David Granger to empower local authorities to take charge of their own communities and for decisions to be made from the “bottom-up”.

However, Adams said despite the concerns raised about the relocation, the Ministry indicated that “it was a done deal” but tried to “appease” the residents by promising proper roads, electricity and a playground.

The main bridge in the bushes connecting Mocha with Barnwell

But the NDC Chairman argued that it was insulting that those amenities are being promised as part of the bargain when the community has been in existence for over 20 years without proper infrastructural works.

“This shouldn’t be part of the bargain. This is infrastructure and services that any community should be given regardless of any transfer of citizens to our community,” he stated.

Barnwell, located behind Mocha, has been without electricity and proper roads for years. Electricity theft in the area is high and a stroll down the mud dam will show a network of wires running from utility poles through bushes to connect houses in Barnwell.

FARMLANDS

About 30 residents have acquired permission from the Guyana Lands and Survey Commission (GL&SC) to utilize some of the unoccupied lands in Barnwell for farming purposes. The vegetation and meats from those farms are often sold at the Mocha Market at the convenience of residents.

Farmer Dexter Thompson expressed concerns about the future of his farm in light of the Ministry’s move to build houses in that area for the squatters.

Another issue, he said, is the fact that farmers have made the full payments to the GL&SC for the lands but they are yet to be issued with their land titles.

“The said land that the government allocated for these house lots is where we are farming…now I want to know, we paid already for these lands and they supposed to send the surveyors fuh get we lease since 1993 we applying for these lands … now when they put these people here, what about the food security of this village? We have to be depending on food coming out of the village when we can produce our own food in the village?” he expressed.

HOUSE LOTS

Anola Peters, a 46 – year old mother of three and a resident of Mocha all her life, said she has been waiting for years to get her own land from the government and feels insulted that squatters are going to get lands in her hometown when she is yet to receive any.

Anola Peters

“I have three children and the eldest is 29-year old and we all live together in a house. Me, my cousin and her two children, my mother and my children. That mean, I need a piece of land and I am not getting it…,” she explained.

Peters said, “We don’t have space for people cause we need ourselves … a land that you fore-parents work hard for and tek licks for, how you gonna feel? This village ain’t build on Food for the Poor and government, how you see this village set right now, is we.”

The resident declared that it is “not fair” and that villagers who have been trying to acquire their own lands for years should have been given first preference.

The NDC Chairman said after this issue was raised with the CH&PA officials, it was agreed that about 15 Mocha residents would benefit from the houses which are being constructed in Barnwell.

He said the Senior Community Development Officer was tasked with establishing criteria to determine which resident would be eligible for one of the houses.

QUESTIONABLE CHARACTERS

The NDC Chairman also noted that most residents do not want the squatters to move into their community because of their “questionable characters” and possible impacts their way-of-life would have on crime and social problems in the community.

Deputy Chairperson Nima Flue-Best

According to the Deputy Chairperson Nima Flue-Best, “we’re already challenged with drug issues, theft and all these things that go along with it and we are working to help to alleviate some of the social ills we are having. It’s kind of difficult to see how the transfer to the residents from Broad Street into Mocha would help with our situation.”

The village leaders said they recognize the need for the families at Lombard/Broad Streets to be relocated but are not in favour with the entire community being dumped into theirs.

“Mocha already have our own culture, way of life and practices. Now what they are actually forcing us into is bringing another community that will come with their social issues and plug it into our village,” Flue-Best said.

Some of the squatters at Lombard & Broad St

The NDC Chairman said they are willing to accommodate some of the residents and proposed that the Ministry scatter the squatters in different communities.

According to one resident, Reginald Daniels, a recommendation was made for the squatters to be relocated to the Perseverance Housing Scheme aback Providence but the Mocha residents were told that it was reserved for “young professionals”.

The NDC and residents said they will not give up the fight even though the CH&PA plans to have the squatters relocated by December 2017. The NDC Chairman said the next step would be to formally write the Minister of Housing and keep engagements with the government.

He said residents want to commence a petition to be submitted to the government and the idea is being explored. According to Adams, if all else fails, the community is prepared to take the matter to the court.

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