Commissioner and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Guyana Lands and Surveys Commission (GL&SC), Trevor Benn, in urging the public to desist from building structures on Government reserves noted that while the Town Councils and City Council may have granted licences for persons to occupy certain reserves that practice is illegal.
“As far as I am aware there is no relationship with those NDCs or the Town Councils that undertake such action and as far as the State Land Act is concerned, that is illegal,” he said.
According to the GL&SC CEO, “It is illegal to occupy Government or State property without [the] permission of the State agency responsible, in this case the [GL&SC]… For some reason, however, there has been a lapse and people were allowed, wittingly or unwittingly, to occupy Government reserves. What we have found though is that it has become a real hindrance to the developmental works that the Government would like to pursue…. Therefore, the call that was made recently, one, is to remind people that it is illegal to do that and secondly, to tell people that going forward, it will not be encouraged.”
Benn noted that while some persons living on the reserves have been served notices to desist, the GL&SC is hampered from taking further action as some of them have been granted licences to occupy some portions of land.
However the Commissioner warned that the GL&SC “is not prepared to perpetually grant licences [for] them to be on the reserve. In fact the licence is very clear that whenever government is ready for use of the reserve, they will have to vacate. So it is very clear to anyone, who may have had a licence in the past… some people have begun to believe that this is a right and so without even getting approval from Lands and Surveys, they go on to the parapets, they go on to the reserves and so we’re trying to discontinue that practice.”
Licences were issued on the Soesdyke-Linden Highway, for example, for persons to occupy sections of the buffer zone – the road reserve, and in several locations in regions Two, Three and Six as well as on the East Coast and East Bank of Demerara, he said.
Even though GL&SC says they are clamping down on persons encroaching on the reserves, Benn noted that the recently published advertisement in the press warning persons against occupying the reserves is not intended to excite the public, “as at the moment we are not thinking about removing anyone. If you’re there, the Government, I’m sure, will have an arrangement to deal with the present squatters at some future point because at some point they will have to move, but that’s not our focus at the moment” he said.