The Working People’s Alliance (WPA) yesterday declared its support for the Lands Commission of Inquiry (CoI), charging that 23 years of PPP/C rule had seen the country retrogressing on the “burning issue of land rights and justice”.
Saying that a commission on land issues has been long overdue, the WPA said it hopes that the CoI established by President David Granger will undertake an extensive study of the system and make recommendations that will right the numerous wrongs that have been committed against legitimate land holders and their heirs.
The WPA, which is part of the governing coalition by virtue of its membership of A Partnership for National Unity, said that over the years of its existence it has been very active, primarily through the efforts of Eusi Kwayana, Rupert Roopnaraine and Desmond Trotman in representing the interest of those persons who have been disempowered by unjust laws and land grabbers. It added that the importance that the party places on land issues is evidenced in the fact that in all of the manifestoes it produced or those that it collaborated on, the setting up of a viable land commission has always had a prominent place in the proposals.
“The 23 years of the PPP/C’s administration has witnessed the country retrogressing on the burning issue of land rights and justice. Measures were imposed by that regime which, formally and informally, gave huge portions of lands to party functionaries and their families, whether they lived in Guyana or abroad. This practice was a systemic process that facilitated land grabbing in a manner not seen before in Guyana. Expropriation of private and public lands became the order of the day. Those persons with political connections in the power structure became the local land czars. In many cases African ancestral lands were taken away and given to non-Africans”, the WPA charged.
The WPA said that it has noted the attempt by the opposition PPP/C and its leader Bharrat Jagdeo to use the commission to seek to divide, Africans and Amerindians by presenting the CoI as an instrument to take away lands from the Amerindians to give to Africans.
“WPA is not amused by these Machiavellian political tactics and we call on all patriotic and peace loving Guyanese to support the work of this Commission of Inquiry”, the party said.
Amerindian groups, including the National Toshaos Council, had objected vehemently to the lumping under the CoI of their land titling matters with those pertaining to African ancestral lands. Fears had also been expressed that the CoI could be a means through which their rights were suppressed. After their strenuous objections, it was agreed that the CoI would handle their matters separately from the ancestral land matters.
The CoI has held hearings over the last few weeks. Hearing are to resume next month.