A 25-year long wait, yesterday came to an end when 22 residents of Upper Demerara-Berbice (Region Ten) and former employees of the Linden Mining Enterprises Limit-ed (LINMINE) received titles to the lands they have been occupying from Minister of State, Joseph Harmon.
A release from the Ministry of the Presidency said that at a ceremony held at Watooka House, Harmon congratulated the recipients, stating that they had been neglected for far too long.
The release said that the residents have lived on the East Bank of the Demerara River in Mackenzie in houses built by the bauxite company for its employees.
A programme of selling these properties to employees started in the late 1960’s and at the time of vesting the lands to state holding company NICIL, there were a number of employees, who had signed sales agreements, but the titles were never transferred to them, the release said.
The lands had been handed over to National Industrial and Commercial Invest-ments Limited (NICIL) by vesting order in 2005 by LINMINE after an injunction was issued as a result of a case brought by James Ramsahoye to force the company to honour a prior judgment for wrongful dismissal. The release said that the injunction effectively blocked the transfer of titles by LINMINE to its ex-employees. Harmon described the former administration as insensitive to the needs and plight of the residents as it failed to take action to ensure the matter was resolved even after the court matter was settled.
Harmon said that during a visit to the region last year he heard numerous complaints about the situation. He said that he then convened a meeting with the regional officials, Head of NICIL’s Board, Horace James and other stakeholders and instructed that those complaints be addressed.
“It was just a question of uncaringness of the Government at that time. A process has been put in place for those, who are receiving transports and titles. Twenty-two titles were handed over and it ends the process for which transactions began since in the 1980s but which were never completed because of a number of legal obstacles, which have now been resolved. The delay in granting these titles was also due to the fact that no work was done to grant the titles by the previous administration even though the processes were completed and vesting orders were published,” he said.
One of the beneficiaries, Morris Reece, who lives in Industrial Area, Linden said that while he had initially gotten tired of waiting for the matter to be resolved, Harmon’s resolve convinced him that his dream of owning the land would have been realised.
“Today my dream has come through. I have been waiting 25 years and over, hoping and waiting for this day and today I am collecting my title.
This is a good move by the Government and I really want to say thank you to Minister Harmon and the entire Government,” he said.
Bibi Ameena, also from Industrial Area concurred. “Oh God, I am so thankful. Right now, I feel so proud, so thankful. I really feel good about this because I waited such a long time for this day to come and I want to say thank you very much,” she said.
Harmon said that the David Granger- led administration is committed to ensuring that sustainable, family oriented communities are created across Guyana. He noted that this exercise is part of a process of regularisation of land and property issues across Guyana by the Administration.
Harmon said that the housing plans over the past two decades have been bedevilled by problems including the “cavalier approach to land distribution, prohibitive cost of housing lands, abysmal infrastructure within the communities, failure on some part of private developers to meet their contractual obligations, sloth of the processing of land titles and shoddy works on houses”, the release said.
Meanwhile, James, Chairman of the Board of NICIL, said that the company is committed to seeing this process to a resolution. “This has been a very long wait.
I have seen letters written starting the process since 1964 in some cases and there were a number of reasons for not completing the process. There was communication and then no communication on both ends and all of that but as a company, we will make contact with you and will ensure that we keep you updated and carry out this process through the end,” he said.