Community ReportNews

No house lots no vote; land grabbers/ squatters in Sophia chant

Thelesha George shows her house lot application for 2019 as she proclaims, ‘No house lot, no vote

Persons from as far as Linden found themselves in Sophia today and over the weekend, illegally grabbing-up lands in Sophia which are either owned by private citizens or agencies of the state, not necessarily the Central Housing and Planning Authority.

The land-grabbing which started last week by the residents targeted large plot of lands which are either owned by the Guyana Lands and Surveys Commission (GLSC), National Industrial Commercial and Investment Limited (NICIL) forced the Minister of Housing to call an emergency press conference to quell the misinformation the residents have been hearing.

A woman holds a cutlass in her hand Monday morning as she prepares to go onto the squatting land

BIG Smith News Watch visited the community this morning where hundreds of persons were gathered; some with letters of application, other with the source document and those with cutlasses to continue and or commence clearing of the government lands.

“I came here and I am hearing that the people who applied since 2015 and whatever are not getting through and the people who have not apply are getting through and I feel that is something totally wrong. Also, the people who already been and survey and do up their land and so on are not getting through and that is very wrong” Annamarie Hansin of B Field Sophia claimed.

One man who said he applied for a house lot for eight years now claimed that he has not been able to receive any word from the Minister of Housing. “The last time they were here they collected back my paper which I got from housing and they said they will call me and they never did and that was like last year. I don’t know what is happening here today I just got the news from someone and they said housing is at the center so I just come”

In the cases of the lands which are controlled by the Central Housing and Planning Authority, we were told that those allocated under the previous government but person never took up those lands as access to them were almost impossible, something that is being addressed at the moment.

Staff from the Central Housing and Planning Authority navigates through the crowd with documents to assist first-time applicants

BIG Smith News Watch was told that last week representatives from the Central Housing and Planning wee indeed in the community and a decision was made for those persons who have not yet applied for their house lot to visit the Community Centre in the area. However, there was a breakdown in communication somewhere which lead to a rumor began circulating that persons who never applied for house lots were being issued the lands located in Sophia.

“Other than they will give you a call when the land is available and so on, up to now I have not gotten a call from housing well due to the whole commotion wuh going on at the back with everybody wedding down and taking land it was a whole different story you hearing because housing come in and give permission and then the next day you hear they say you can’t build so we come to this meeting to find out what is really happening and what is really going on with the people that apply because apparently the people who did not apply are getting first preference.” Andrea, a Sophia resident told this publication when she was asked if she ever applied for a house lot.

Dozens of persons waiting to be engaged by officers from the Central Housing and Planning Authority

Wendell, another resident stated “I done apply about ten years already and when I go into housing they were changing up the system they were saying that they are giving away house that they already build but I did not get through with any but I applied ten years ago so as they come in here now I want to know if I can get through with a land because that supposed to be in the system”

Then there was one of many persons who thought that by virtue of weeding lands that were not properly allocated to them, they somehow have rights to be issued or occupy the land. “I ain’t apply right, but I went and weed the land so I just come now and they told me that who apply going to get land or something like that seh I ain’t really understand what going, is like I waste my energy going and chop land or wuh? He provided his name as Kenneon from Princess Street.

Omowah Caesar in his comment to the BIG Smith New Watch believes that it is time the residents of Sophia be given lands to own their own homes.  “Is a quit over; quit ah decade of years you deh in this town you know; and the interest of us black people is very hard fuh really…I mean many poor people need land and they still can’t get it because why, it’s due to situations, I come out here with intentions to just achieve”

Caesar holding up a house lot application letter which he received back in 2011

Bajadee Hoodridge was one of the more vocals persons out and about on Monday and made it clear that her vote is heavily dependent on her receiving a house lot first, specifically the house lot that she has been clearing. “I live on my mother’s land and my mother and sisters don’t agree. I need place for my children, I have nine children and I need a house lot and if I don’t get a house lot, well is me and four children eligible to vote suh think about it, me and four, you gah give me something because I voting for you all the time” She noted

Thelesha George also showed some signs of frustration as she spoke of her own experience of attempting to secure a house lot and the measures she took. I interested in a house I lot, I have two young children, no house hot now not vote I went through the jungle in the cane field and chop my way to get a piece of land and if I don’t get that piece of land, no vote Mr. Granger, I need my house lot is long we want house long I apply and I have my paper if you come and see where I live you would be shame’

One resident tho, Patrick Hosanna said the behaviour of the residents from Sophia and other communities have no respect for the rule of law that prohibits squatting.

 “I am living in here and I am seeing a set of people, an influx of people going on the cane dam to squat. Number one, this administration doesn’t encourage squatting because they have assigned at the head there when you come in, two sings for that matter saying squatting is illegal. Government has programs out for these people what they running there and work the land is a rumor, this government doesn’t do that the government works with programs, it’s illegal for them to be squatting” He told BIG Smith News Watch.

Patrick Hosanna as he expresses disagreement with the land grabbing and squatting

In 2015 Shortly after the APNU+AFC Coalition won the last elections, a number of persons began invading lands owned by Guysoca, private lands, and other landmasses as where they began clearing and erecting structures all across the country. The government then quickly moved in a placed a halt to the illegal practices.