Lands purchased by Afro-Guyanese after emancipation were under attack by the then colonial state because they provided the freed slave with living space and potential independence. Those lands that were inveigled from their village owners then and over a century later have never left the memory of those descendants; their concerns in 2017 are not based on prescriptive rights but on stolen rights of purchase. Do the three media declarations made by PPP party members, Ms Gail Teixeira, Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo and the tremendously misinformed Mr Harry Gill convey a peculiar sensation of guilt? But then Pradoville Two is presumed to have joined the indiscretions of nineteenth-twentieth century Booker Bros McConnell & Co Ltd. Others are a result of whose deliberate scheming and dishonest actions? Mr Harry Gill asks in his letter, “Why did ACDA not take this matter to Forbes Burnham or to Desmond Hoyte?” The answer is that ACDA did not exist when these former Presidents governed this land. Back then sugar was a serious contributor to the GDP, despite the PPP’s mismanagement of the sugar industry. Since the fall of sugar in Guyana and worldwide, there will be downsizing of that industry and rather than have the issue of these lands from GuySuCo confused with lands which the state can dispose of as it finds necessary, there is no better time to reassert legitimate claims for those and other purchased lands.
In the early ʼ90s when President Jagan came to power and ACDA was in existence, President Jagan had sent Brindley Benn to discuss what our foremost concerns were. Among other items was the issue currently addressed, but though he was receptive, Cheddi Jagan died before the issues could be activated. As for the legacy of President Forbes Burnham, in 1966 Independence found about a third of the mostly Afro-Guyanese population of Georgetown living in ‘nigger yards’; these were double lots occupied by some twenty families, with two latrines and bathrooms, and a middle yard standpipe that was a literal battlefield. These were unhealthy and contentious, with names like Camacho Yard, Jardine Yard, Slap Can Yard, Federation Yard, YY Yard here, there and everywhere. It was Forbes Burnham who from 1972 addressed those socially accepted concentration camps, with South and North Ruimveldt, Festival City, Roxanne Burnham Gardens, among other living spaces. He provided an exodus from slums to ownership; no one in the PPP can take that away from him. Mr Jagdeo of all people, the Pradoville Two creator, questions if the land issue will provide jobs. With the population of villages bursting at the seams, villagers forced to pay rent elsewhere because of congested situations, regaining land spaces, amounts to one reality: that of opportunity.
Over the last twenty years there have been unscrupulous collaborations between lawyers, people at the registry and politically linked criminal businessmen directed at stealing village and private lands; some succeeded, including relatives of politicians, and I am not referring to Pradoville Two, whether or not it is eventually proved to be indeed part of the post-emancipation owned lands. These indiscretions have to be reversed. Many incidents outside of the Afro-Guyanese community also occurred; they will also benefit from the corrective regulations that emerge from this African Land CoI.