Culture of “help a friend, support a comrade” promotes squatting- GL&SC

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By Bibi Khatoon

The Guyana Lands and Surveys Commission is battling with the issue of government officials granting State lands for use to their friends and families, which it says encourages and promotes squatting in the country.

At a press conference on Monday, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the agency, Trevor Benn noted that “throughout the country, we have a number of agencies who for one reason or the other, we decide to help a friend, support a comrade or whatever it is, it gives them the authority to go on these reserves.”

Some of the agencies include the Central Housing and Planning Authority and the Mayor and City Council.

During the recently concluded Commission of Inquiry (COI) into City Hall, it was found that the City’s Administrator, Town Clerk, Royston King leased plots of land to friends and relatives.

The CoI report, which was handed over to the Local Government Commission, alluded to several instances including where lands belonging to the National Industrial and Commercial Investments Limited (NICIL), were leased to a shipping company on Lombard Street, Georgetown.

Mr. Benn noted that some of the state lands were set aside for road expansions and the passage of heavy duty machinery which clean outfall channels.

Due to the presence of occupants on the reserve, the agencies responsible for these projects cannot get their work done.

One of the major areas of contention is the Soesdyke-Linden Highway where persons are mining sand illegally and this, the CEO says, has begun to affect the roadway.

According to Benn, persons have commenced sand mining close to the buffer zone and have removed all of the internal roadways meant for access to farmlands and residential areas.

“If you travel along the highway, you will see the undulations on the road now and I’m very fearful that one of these days, we’ll be in our beds and hear we can’t go to Linden anymore because the whole highway is washed away,” he explained.

The Land CEO said this has been hard to monitor since the Lands and Surveys office on the highway was closed over two years ago.

To address the issue in the interim, the Commission has ceased granting its no objection for sand mining along the Highway.

According to Mr. Benn, efforts are being made to give approval for sand mining beyond the reserves. While this may be costlier, he believes it needs to be done.

During his 2019 National Budget speech, Finance Minister, Winston Jordan noted that the Government has allocated $134 million to execute studies and designs for the rehabilitation of the 72 km Linden-Soesdyke Highway.

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