Lands must be distributed in legal, organised manner

– Attorney General tells Belle West farmers

Attorney General (AG) and Minister of Legal Affairs, Hon. Mohabir Anil Nandlall, has said the Government is seeking to ensure that every Guyanese who receives State lands, whether sold or leased, follows a legitimate and organised procedure so that everyone receives equal benefits.

The AG said these are the principles which govern the divestment of public properties in any democratic country.

Attorney General (AG) and Minister of Legal Affirms, Hon. Mohabir Anil Nandlall

He was at the time speaking to members of the Farmers Advancement Co-operative Society during a community meeting at Belle West, West Bank Demerara on Thursday. Minister of Agriculture, Hon. Zulfikar Mustapha also attended the meeting.

The engagement with the farmers came days after they had received notices from the National Industrial and Commercial Investments Limited (NICIL) to quit utilising its portion of lands at the First Western Quarter of Belle East and other property in surrounding communities on the West Bank.

The Attorney General made it clear the PPP/C Government is not taking away livelihoods from its citizens.

“State land is not owned by any Government minister; it belongs to the people of the country. When a Government is elected, it has a duty to ensure that public or state lands are governed responsibly that is [if] a decision is made to sell or lease, it is the best possible decision.”

He noted that the lands must be advertised, and persons must be invited to apply, followed by the lands being surveyed, “so that your lease capture accurately the physical demarcation or else it will be chaos.”  

He said the leases were terminated in accordance with the exit clauses stipulated on the document. This was done to “wipe the slate clean.” Going forward, a governing infrastructure will be established to supervise the occupation of the land.

“The decision is to create an authority govern[ed] by a board that will look after the affairs of what used to be the Wales estate. This authority will help you to deal with the overall management of the land, to ensure that it is properly drained and irrigated, so that individual occupants will be able to benefit from the communal service.”

Meanwhile, several farmers raised concerns about investments which they had already made. While noting her frustration after receiving her termination letter Ms. Joy Beharry said she is thankful for the Government’s move to regularise the lands. However, she, like many others, have already cultivated land which will be harvested after one year.

Ms. Joy Beharry, farmer

In this regard, the Minister of Agriculture advised the farmers not to expand beyond their current production while the Ministry seeks other alternatives.    

“What I am suggesting, since NICIL has already served the letter, let us create a team to conduct an occupation survey and let’s see what is there; how many persons and the portion of land they occupy, and from there, NICIL can make a decision going forward. But the letter issued by NICIL still stands, until the survey is completed,” Minister Mustapha said.

Minister of Agriculture, Hon. Zulfikar Mustapha

Like the AG, Minister Mustapha maintained that the letter issued is not to take income away from Guyanese, but it must be observed. This, they reiterated, is in the best long-term interest of every occupant on the land.

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