While the main Parliamentary Opposition party, the A Partnership for National Unity + Alliance for Change (APNU+AFC) continues to up pressure on the Irfaan Ali-led administration to regularise squatting at Success, East Coast Demerara (ECD), the party is embroiled in the “largest” illegal land giveaway in Guyana’s history. This is according to the Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs, Anil Nandlall.
The Success squatting debacle made headlines last month when the Guyana Police Force (GPF) was caught in a standoff with squatters who refused to vacate lands owned by the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo). The company said that the presence of the squatter settlement is a hinderance to its resumption of operations along the ECD corridor. Since then, the authorities have resorted to several methods, including demolition of structures and the flooding of the lands, in a bid to force persons to leave. A temporary shelter at a nearby school was set up for displaced persons, with many refusing to take up the offer. The APNU+AFC has taken a stance to support squatters, saying that such “inhumane tactics” being employed to have persons vacate lands, can lead to citizens becoming “refugees in their own country”.
But Nandlall said that party is being duplicitous. “These very politicians are going there (Success) like sympathising Judases and going to use those people as political pawns when they have gifted to their friends and cronies hundreds of acres of lands for free, and without any process,” Nandlall said last night during his live call-in programme, “Issues in the News”.
A review is currently ongoing into the former Coalition government’s handling of State lands during its tenure in office. Nandlall said that preliminary findings of that assessment show that most of the lands were “gifted away” after the David Granger-led regime was reduced to a “Caretaker” Government back in 2018. He also contended that a majority of these lands were allocated without due process.
“[M]ost of the lands were gifted away after the no-confidence motion was passed; when the government was lawfully in a Caretaker mode, and was only supposed to run the Public Service of Guyana and prepare for the elections. That is the period that most of the giveaways took place. So, a government in such a circumstance (Caretaker mode) ought not to be giving away or entering into transactions of this type. But that is when the previous administration chose to get most active in its divestment of State property,” he said.
He added that lands were also “gifted away” during the post-elections period. In both periods mentioned, the AG said that no due process was followed in the allocation of State lands.
“From March 2 to August 2, you have a high pile of leases and titles that were gifted away by the government…There is absolutely no record of a process known to the law, or known in the existing organisation – if it is NICIL (National Industrial and Commercial Investments Limited) or the [Guyana] Lands and Surveys [Commission]…No process whatsoever was followed. Certainly, no Expressions of Interests published publicly, no advertisement inviting persons to apply, no public process whatsoever – no process whatsoever,” the Minister said.
Nandlall added that there is no evidence to suggest that a feasibility study was done by recipients, or applicants to show what they intended to do with the lands once given. He said that titles were also issued without the State receiving payments. Nandlall further stated that the review has thus far indicated that no process was used to determine valuation of lands.