Land which has been historically leased to residents is under threat from the encroachment of big businesses which are taking up government reserves along the Railway Embankment Road from Mon Repos to Good Hope, East Coast Demerara.
Residents along the areas told Stabroek News that they have been fighting for over 15 years to have the land regularised with the Central Housing and Planning Authority (CH&PA) promising that the land would have been surveyed in September 2013.
Within the last three months, not only has the land not been surveyed by the CH&PA, but businesses
have begun taking over land that was used for cash crop farming by residents. This publication was told that a rice mill was being proposed for part of the area.
Stabroek News was told by residents that while the big businesses occupied the land starting from the Highway moving south towards the Railway Embankment, land has always been reserved on the side of the Embankment road for housing.
Over the last two months there have been aggressive extensions by several of the businesses.
One resident stated that a sign was recently erected by the CH&PA which denotes that the land belong to the Authority, however this has not stopped one businessman from erecting permanent structures. The CH&PA went out to the area after an aggressive five-month campaign by residents but still no survey has been completed.
Stabroek News was told that residents over the past two years have written to President Donald Ramotar on the matter. They also spoke with the Attorney General Anil Nandlall during his weekly meeting with the public several weeks ago. Residents said that they sought the advice of the Attorney General after being ultimately frustrated that letters to the President and Prime Minister Sam Hinds have gone unacknowledged. One resident recalled that before going to the PM and the President residents had spoken with representatives of the Local Government Ministry, representative from the Ministry of Housing and representatives from the Public Works Ministry.
“They all told us that that’s our land and that the business can’t build on it”, one resident said, later continuing that this has not stopped the large commercial entities from requesting dual exits along the Rupert Craig Highway and the Railway Embankment Road and ultimately beginning construction.
Stabroek News was taken along the stretch of road that houses the 13 commercial entities. “IEL (industrial Engineering Limited) has been here for years. They are the only ones really doing heavy duty things and they haven’t taken any more land. They have this one entrance and exit and they are doing real construction, why the rest need if IEL is doing fine like this?” one resident queried. He said that of the various government agencies and ministries consulted “everywhere we go they are saying we would get this land…some of the other land already been registered and regulated, but it’s only this here where these businesses are.”
Residents told Stabroek News that they felt that while the government was stating that the land should rightfully belong to residents, their actions spoke very differently. They said that year after year they patiently waited because they have been leasing the land since 1954 and it was passed down to other generations. They said that since one company first extended its land claim over 15 years ago they waited patiently for the CH&PA to regulate the government reserve in that area as they had done with the reserve along the East Coast embankment from Triumph to Lusignan, “but they didn’t, they just skipped this piece here, because big business is here,” Stabroek News was told by one resident.
Residents are hoping that a visit from the attorney general will iron out what needs to be done to preserve their section of the government reserve and bring it up to speed with all the other reserve land along the embankment that was regularised years ago and assigned lot numbers.
For now, residents are thinking that the only way to stop big business from pushing them out of their homes and farming land is to start construction on their own fences, essentially blocking the businesses from utilising the land.
Meanwhile, proprietor of Full Works, Roshan Ali, told Stabroek News that when the land was purchased it was inclusive of all the land going to the Railway Embankment. He declined to provide any further comment. Stabroek News tried repeatedly to speak with a representative from Trans Pacific Motors Spares and Auto Sales, but was repeatedly told that no one was available. When Stabroek News reached out to D Rampersaud Lumber Yard, it was told that someone would call back with information, however this did not happen nor was any representative available when this newspaper attempted to call back.