I welcome the action taken by Anil Nandlall, PPP/C Member of Parliament and attorney-at-law, to approach the ancestral lands Commission of Inquiry (CoI) to resolve what has been an ongoing dispute pertaining to the village of Kingelly, West Coast Berbice. He reportedly is representing some 150 families who are claiming ownership of some of the lands bought by my former enslaved great-great-great-great grandfather Cudjoe McPherson. This land was bought primarily from the miserly income earned during apprenticeship (1834-July 1838) and immediate post-emancipation period.
It is noted that Mr Nandlall’s claim is that the CoI will cause conflict, hence the reason why the PPP/C government rejected the motion to regularise ancestral lands brought to the National Assembly by PNCR Member of Parliament Deborah Backer. I am more inclined to believe the PPP/C saw benefit in allowing the matter to remain unresolved because it allows the conflict to fester, villagers to be divided, and because the party could profit from such an environment.
Disputes are meant to be resolved. There is a dispute over this land, whether actively for or against, going back to around 1905 when others began to squat on it. The matter is before the court since the 1960s due to a challenge brought by others residing on the land when the heirs of Cudjoe moved to have the land surveyed. The commissioners were advised of all this by me, along with showing transport dated 1850 and a survey ordered by my enslaved ancestor with his signature, which I must add was an accomplishment in a period when enslaved Africans were not permitted learning.
Being quiet does not mean the dispute does not exist. As a matter of fact, the quietness may have been an effort by the government to frustrate those who have a legitimate claim, and to deal with the issue. While Mr Nandlall had advised that my relations are walking around the village saying that some have to pay rent for the land, he failed to say that for years.
Some of Mr Nandlall’s public statements as recorded in the media should be of concern given the establishing of a dishonest premise which would have impact on the credibility of his presentation before the CoI. August 2017 marked 179 years of emancipation. Kingelly was a plantation before being purchased by the freed Africans in the 1840s and converted to a village. The next batch of imported workers came as immigrants in May 1838 and they did not go to Kingelly. He owes the society an explanation of his claim that “these persons and others and their ancestors, have been in occupation of these lands for over 200 years, unopposed.” Neither history nor the maths adds up to this spurious claim, thereby questioning the credibility and intent of his pursuit on this matter.
I am the descendant of Cudjoe McPherson; the descendant of a slave. This matter is personal to me not only as a descendant of my former enslaved great-great-great-great grandfather, and ensuring rightful ownership, but also to set the historical record right regarding original ownership, which will serve to establish a legacy of property ownership that many have claimed through squatting, prescriptive rights, and other means allowing them ownership now. This record must not only be acknowledged but also corrected, so when the history of Kingelly is written or spoken of the achievement of former slave Cudjoe McPherson must be indelibly marked.
There is resolution in law. Ignoring the matter did not bring resolution, all it sought to do was ferment the conflict. Through the legal process legitimacy will now be determined, including the authenticity of rights and entitlement.