Santa Rosa woman says village council attempting to seize her land to build guest house

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Monique Gonsalves, a resident of Santa Rosa in Region One (Barima- Waini), has accused the village council of attempting to seize a plot of land that was transferred to her 16 years ago, to build a new guesthouse.

Gonsalves, on Tuesday, told the News Room that the one-acre plot of land was transferred to her from a relative Yvette Williams in August 2006.

The woman said that she has maintained the land since then, only planting a few coconut trees there. Her intention was to give the land to her son when he got older.

Monique Gonsalves

But on May 19, when the woman attempted to clear the land as she normally would, she discovered contractors there. Those contractors, she said, were about to clear the land as part of preparations for the construction of a new guest house.

“…I went to clean the same plot of land and the Toshao sent a police officer and stopped me from cleaning,” Gonsalves told the News Room.

The woman was, reportedly, told that the land no longer belongs to her and it has been taken by the village council.

Gonsalves was also told that she is not a resident of Santa Rosa and this may hinder her efforts to own land. She, however, explained that she moved into the community years ago after her previous residence at Father’s Beach became flooded and uninhabitable.

“I grow up there (in Santa Rosa),” Gonsalves emphasised, explaining that she was officially granted residency in 2015 by a former Toshao.

That aside, Gonsalves highlighted that she has an agreement verifying that the land was transferred to her. She shared this document with the News Room; it was signed by all parties, including the village council.

Contractors continue to engage in preparatory works on the land.

With the contractor still continuing preparatory work on the land, Gonsalves opted to pen a letter of complaint to the Minister of Amerindian Affairs Pauline Sukhai.

Minister Sukhai, in an invited comment, told the News Room that once apprised of the situation, she immediately intervened.

In a letter seen by the News Room, Minister Sukhai asked the Santa Rosa Village Council to halt all actions on the land and provide a report on the matter. Further, a ministerial team was tasked with visiting the village to investigate the matter.

The Santa Rosa Toshao Stanvious Stanley, in another letter seen by the News Room, told Minister Sukhai that the matter was dealt with internally. In the letter, however, the Toshao said that he was unaware of a petition to the minister for an investigation to be carried out, as is required by the 2006 Amerindian Act.

When contacted on Tuesday, the Toshao said that he is unable to comment on the matter but assured the News Room that he was investigating the issue.

Though several stakeholders are investigating the matter, Gonsalves, on Tuesday, said that the contractors continue to engage in preparatory works on the land.

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