Local government power is being selectively respected, Chairman of the Mocha/Arcadia Neigh-bourhood Democratic Council (NDC) Rudolph Adams said yesterday, while maintaining that the move to relocate squatters from Broad and Lombard streets to the community will be fought.
At a press conference yesterday morning, Adams along with several councillors and residents of the community said that a meeting with the Minister within the Ministry of Communities Valerie Patterson-Yearwood, they were told that some 49 families would be relocated to the Barnwell area in Mocha and the numbers cannot be changed.
“At that point we would’ve asked that some of the families from the area be housed in alternative areas. However, she insisted that the 49 families, in her own words, is a done deal,” Adams explained.
He also stated that when the minister was questioned on why the housing authority was not exploring the option of relocating the families to the newly-developed housing scheme at Perseverance, also on the East Bank of Demerara, she had indicated that the area was for “professionals and government workers,” which ruffled some feathers since the Mocha/Arcadia residents viewed the answer as being disrespectful.
Despite having several meetings with the residents of the community, officers from the Central Housing and Planning Authority (CH&PA) and Patterson-Yearwood explained that the decision had already been made, which Adams said indicated that their respect for the local presiding body was selective.
“As a matter of fact, President [David] Granger would’ve indicated after general elections that it would not be business as usual but local governance would be an important factor and that is the reason for calling Local Government Elections. What he was preaching is that communities should handle their own affairs and based on that we would’ve indicated our dissatisfaction,” he said.
He said too that President Granger stated that community development would no longer be done from the “top down” but the “bottom up.” It seems, he added, that those words are only being respected selectively.
When asked whether the NDC felt powerless, Adams explained that they have not exhausted all of their options to come to a conclusion that they are being ignored.
“We would’ve started with some of the officers at the CH&PA and we intend to take it further and that is in the interest of the community. I think the community would’ve declared in front of the CH&PA team that the next step is to petition the ministry,” Adams explained.
Despite the fact that it seems that the housing authority has already made a decision, Adams said that the NDC will continue engaging the ministry and the government.
In terms of a court challenge, the chairman explained that it would be up to the residents. However, he said the NDC wants to have any possible intervention that will see the matter resolved in an amicable way.
While the majority of residents are completely against the relocation of the squatters, since they are of the opinion that the move will have a large negative social impact on the developing community, Adams said that they are open to taking in some but cannot currently support the transfer of 49 families to the community.
Highlighting one of the issues that the community would face, Adams explained that currently there are only two schools that serve the community – the Mocha Primary and the Mocha Nursery School.
With respect to the Nursery School, he pointed out that it is currently filled to capacity and it would be difficult to integrate additional students.
During the meetings with the minister and the representatives from CH&PA, Adams said that they also highlighted the urgent need to upgrade the security in the community, since the outpost that currently serves the area is not adequate. “They also indicated to us that we would be given light for Barnwell, which was long overdue, and at that stage we saw it as an appeasement to coax us to entertain these residents at that time. They had also promised to build a playground for the residents when they come,” Adams said, while pointing out that the authorities are tempting the residents with improvements that should have been done a long time ago for the community.
Adams also said that the lands in Barnwell that the CH&PA have allocated for the transfer of the squatters are currently being used by farmers in the area and they have paid over the years for the land.
“Those lands are being occupied by farmers who had paid and received permission to occupy these lands from Lands and Surveys [Commission] and we would’ve indicated that these are certain things that should be considered because persons from our community would be affected,” he said.
One of the farmers, who is also a resident of the community, was present at the meeting and showed documentation from him and other farmers proving that they have been paying for the lands since 1994. The man also said that if the lands are to be taken back or reduced, it would affect the community tremendously.
“They are thinking about building a market at the back but how we supposed to feed ourselves and supply the market if we ain’t got land to work on?” the man pointed out.
Adams said the council still remains open and supportive of the current administration and some of their policies but its members have been elected to represent the people of their community and their rights will remain the council’s responsibility, first and foremost.
He added that while they are open to accommodating some of the families, they cannot take in all of them. “We have our way of life, culture. They are forcing us and bringing another community with their own culture and plugging it into ours.
A whole new subculture,” Deputy Chairwoman of the NDC Nima Flue-Best added.