The front page of last Thursday’s Guyana Chronicle screamed the headlines ‘Pradoville land in dispute’ with two taglines which read, ‘Plaisance resident says land was bought by slaves’ and ‘SOCU points to massive discrepancies in transfer’. This article begins with the following quote: “The Special Organized Crimes Unit (SOCU) has found a number of discrepancies in the transfer of lands by an order signed by Former President, Bharrat Jagdeo, for the Pradoville Two housing scheme at Sparendaam on the East Coast of Demerara. And a resident of Plaisance has come forward with claims that the land was bought by slaves in the early 1800s.”
By linking the two in the same paragraph, the writer gives readers the distinct impression that the land known as Pradoville Two “was bought by slaves”, hence the so-called “massive discrepancies” discovered by the Special Organized Crimes Unit (SOCU). This statement is not only misleading but may even be libelous, because much later in the same article, the Head of SOCU, Assistant Commissioner Sydney James reported that during an investigation, “SOCU spoke to one Fitzoy McKenzie, a resident of Plaisance who produced documents purporting to show that the area encompassing Goedverwagting/Plaisance were acquired by slaves in the early 1800s. He told the commission that based on examinations of the documents, McKenzie had obtained the papers from the National Archives and SOCU was not able to conclusively state whether the areas mentioned by the man pertained to the same area subject to investigations.”
My point is, since the Head of SOCU admitted that “based on examination of the documents” shown to him by this resident of Plaisance, Fitzoy McKenzie, “SOCU was not able to conclusively state whether the areas mentioned by the man pertained to the same area subject to investigations” meaning Pradoville Two, why was it necessary for the Guyana Chronicle to sensationalize the front page with this misleading headline? Editor, not everyone has the time or interest in reading a complete article in the newspapers. Most may simply form an opinion after reading just the headline. I believe this is a deliberate, devious and mischievous attempt to deceive Afro-Guyanese into believing that the former President, Dr Bharrat Jagdeo is now living on African ancestral lands paid for by freed slaves. This comes at a critical time when an increasing number of PNC/APNU supporters are seeking out the Leader of the Opposition, looking to the PPP/C for relief.
But what is most astonishing about this Commission of Inquiry, is the way Pradoville Two has gained so much attention during the opening salvo, when the terms of reference deal specifically with the ownership of ancestral lands.
To date, no one from the APNU+AFC coalition has ever mentioned the 25 acres of state land in Sophia that the PNC gave themselves on which the PNC headquarters, Congress Place now stands, and the 5 acres of prime real estate that the PPP government generously gave to the family of the late LFS Burnham for free. And there is no mention either by the State Asset Recovery Agency (SARA), about launching an investigation into all the lands and properties that the PNC acquired during all those years of PNC rule. But the government is determined to go after the Red House lease and land at Pradoville Two that were paid for. Because of this
vindictiveness, the Granger administration spends more time and money on a political witch-hunt, than it does running the affairs of the country.
But like those before it, this CoI is another waste of taxpayers’ money, in search of evidence to persecute former PPP/C ministers. Another day, another CoI, another witch-hunting exercise. How are these helping African youths find those elusive jobs promised by the APNU+AFC coalition, and how is this helping their struggling supporters in South Georgetown whose dream of the “good life” diminishes with each passing day. And how is this government helping the interest of Afro-Guyanese when they take away land from 41 African families in Berbice? They’re not; it was the PPP that had to represent these farmers in the courts for justice to prevail.
An Executive Member of the African Cultural & Development Association (ACDA), Ms Violet Jean-Baptiste told the commission that in 2007 the ACDA wrote to then President Bharrat Jagdeo requesting that the government set up a commission to address the issue of African ancestral lands, and that “Our pleadings fell on deaf ears.” But why did she wait until 2007 to do so? If there was ever a time in our nation’s history that was perfect for this injustice to have been settled, it was during those 28 years when the leaders they supported had full control of government, sometimes as much as a two-thirds parliamentary majority, compliments of rigging for twenty-four of those years. Why did the ACDA not make this request to LFS Burnham and Desmond Hoyte? Let there be no doubt, the PPP/C has done more for African-Guyanese than during the entire 28 years of the PNC and the life of this government put together. One only has to look at the new housing scheme in Linden’s Amelia’s Ward and Block 22 for samples of this evidence.
Harry Gill, MP