Members of the Mocha/Arcadia Ancestral Lands Committee are contesting the boundaries for the communities, saying they do not encompass the full extent of its ancestral lands and that a portion was wrongly appropriated by the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo).
This information was related by Financial Advisor Reginald Daniels, who appeared on behalf of the committee before the Commission of Inquiry (COI) into African Ancestral lands and other land matters, which resumed public hearings yesterday.
Daniels stated that the committee members had made contact with GuySuCo (formerly the Demerara Company Limited) to launch an investigation into the matter and the company indicated that it was willing to work with them, but they have not yet seen any success in the matter.
The committee’s contention that the community has, in essence, been robbed of land, is based on information the committee members would have uncovered while researching the issue.
Daniels related that it is the committee’s belief that the boundaries identified in the Land Registry Registration Order and the District Line Partition and Rehabilitation Special Proce-dures Act are not the true boundaries of Arcadia, and by extension, Mocha/Arcadia and, therefore, do not represent the full extent of ancestral lands that belong to the villages.
The Land Registry order stated that the boundaries of Plantation Arcadia are defined: on the North by Number Three Canal; on the south by portions of north boundaries of Plantation Great Diamond and grant #1644 held by the Demarara Company Limited; on the east by Plantation Mocha; on the left by the bank boundaries of Plantation Herstelling, Providence, Farm, Verg-en-Rust- Covent Garden, Prospect, Diamond and portions of eastern boundaries of Plantation Great Diamond.
But in the district line partition and rehabilitation special procedures act cap 60:04, the boundaries of Arcadia were reportedly defined as being: on the north by Canal Number Three; on the south by the south edge of the dam about 2549.9 feet south of Canal Number Three; on the east by Plantation Mocha and on the west it now states only Plantation Herstelling.
“We are claiming the land was improperly appropriated by the Demerara Sugar Company and has since been held and exploited without just compensation to the residents of the two villages and by extension, its Neighbourhood Democratic Council, and we will contend that the commission should correct this historical wrong and mandate that the land be justly returned to the residents of Mocha/Arcadia village,” the man said.
He made further reference to documents that spoke to taxes in the day, and said that rates and taxes for the lands within the Mocha boundaries were “not undisputed.”
“…If these were not the boundaries of Mocha one time why were they paying rates and taxes to land bordering the Lamaha Conservancy?” he asked.
Daniels said that there were also receipts showing that residents paid for land going south from the existing boundaries of Mocha, toward the Diamond Sugar Estate.
“…Which means, Mocha as it stands right now, its boundaries would have extended a few more miles going south of its current boundaries,” he added.
He read an excerpt from Dr Walter Rodney’s History of the Guyanese Working People, 1881 to 1905, which reportedly states that there was an instance where land was seized from the village of Mocha by Plantation Diamond in 1883, and they only received redress four years later.
He also referenced a handwritten petition that made reference to that very event, which he said was filed on behalf of freed slaves by the British-Anti Slavery movement.
The letter was reportedly obtained from a researcher in London. Equipped with a type-written copy of the document, he read:
“Item number 6 clearly states that after the terms had been decided upon, the transport was advertised at the instance of the government, and so desirous were the government of throwing obstacles in the way of a settlement of your petition’s claim that a wrong description of land was given, whereby it was made to appear that the government had acquired a large portion of the land that had been agreed upon, that the remainder belonged to the Crown and the surrounding lands were also owned by the Crown, which was not the case.”
Daniels said that a major portion of the land remains unoccupied.