No strong-arm approach but squatters must be relocated – New Housing Ministers
The newly appointed Ministers of Housing and Water, Collin Croal and Susan Rodrigues have assured squatters that an inclusive policy to relocate them will be in place soon, one that will not employ a strong-arm approach but rather a humanitarian one.
The assurances from the Ministers came on Tuesday during requested visits to several contentious squatting areas in Sophia and Durban Backlands.
Minister Rodrigues said the new People’s Progressive Party Government has taken note of the approach used in the past which resulted in anti-squatting units of the government moving in to demolish the houses of families.
She told a large group of squatters in Sophia that the PPP Government is not interested in any confrontation as it looks to ease squatting and intends to roll out all relocation and resettling policies in complete consultation with those who stand to be affected.
“That type of strong-arm approach, you don’t have to fear that approach from our Government, we are here to listen to you and want to take a more humanitarian approach and it seems to me that we have your cooperation,” she said.
But even with this assurance in place Minister Croal said that while the Ministry looks to address what’s happening now through strict regularization efforts, it will not encourage any new squatting.
“Squatting will not be encouraged… I want to make that very clear because we don’t want to encourage a situation where people take up vacant lots and squat and think, and think that they will bully their way into attention,” Minister Croal said.
During talks with the squatters, the Ministers heard of failed negotiations under the previous APNU+AFC administration and failed efforts by squatters themselves.
The Ministers promised prompt and coordinated action to have those issues addressed.
“This has been an ongoing issue and I think it’s time we fix this situation that has been persisting for so long. I would ensure that you have the full cooperation from the Ministry and the entire government,” Minister Rodrigues added.
The team from the Ministry was particularly concerned with squatting taking place along the conservancies where potable water is accessed.
This prompted a visit to Durban Backlands where the Ministers were updated about the contamination of the water along the conservancy that helps the Guyana Water Inc. to supply the capital city, Georgetown and its surroundings with potable water.
Technical Officers informed the Ministers that it would be a matter of urgency to have those squatters removed lest further contamination of the water created a public health crisis.
“What need to do is get a complete idea of what is happening and how many people are affected… our relocation and resettlement efforts will be top priority,” Minister Rodrigues assured.