Mocha residents claiming ancestral lands stretching to Little Diamond
By Devina Samaroo
As the government moves to relocate squatters to an area aback Mocha, East Bank Demerara (EBD), residents are claiming that the lands are private property belonging to former freed slaves.
Reginald Daniels, a born and bred villager, said documents and history books present compelling evidence to prove that lands stretching from Mocha to Little Diamond belong to the residents of Mocha.
Daniels said the book, ‘A history of the Guyanese working people, 1881-1905’ by Dr Walter Rodney states “difficulties in retaining lands were sometimes occasioned by a private capitalist. Plantations were likely to act in an overbearing manner in any dispute over land with neighbouring villages.”
He highlighted, during a press conference hosted by the Mocha NDC on Saturday, that the book mentions “in a notorious instance, was the seizure of land by Plantation Diamond from Mocha Village in Canal Number Three – an injustice that was perpetuated in 1883 and only partially addressed by the courts in 1887.”
The slaves dug three colonies being Canal Number One and Two over the Demerara River and Canal Number Three along Mocha, the resident explained.
Daniels said the Appendix includes a handwritten petition dated 1887 on behalf of the Africans who were enslaved. He said a researcher out of England was even engaged to determine the context of the petition since the handwriting was difficult to comprehend.
According to the petition, “the land which is on the bank of one of the canals of the colony remain in the undisputed possession of the petitioner until about four years ago when it was illegal, unfairly unjustly and wrongfully taken possession of by the Executive Government and added to Plantation Diamond – a flourishing sugar estate adjacent thereto much to the loss detriment and injuries of your petitioners in as much as they were not only deprived of the land but also was growing thereon.”
Daniels said “put yourself back in 1800, these Africans that were enslaved for centuries, can you imagine anyone of them going on lands that were not theirs. Picture the mindset of those slaves that were so petrified, if they were only caught learning to read and write, they were beaten … do you think anyone of them will go on land by their former slave masters that were not theirs.”
He plans to make these submissions to the ongoing Commission of Inquiry into ancestral lands where a number of persons have already made claims to lands which they believe belonged to their ancestors.
Daniels noted too, that if the government puts the Lombard and Broad Street squatters on these disputed lands, and the COI finds that the lands indeed belong to the former freed slaves, then the administration will find itself with a more complicated issue to address.