The more-than-20-year wait is over for the residents of Non Pareil New Area, East Coast Demerara (ECD), who on Wednesday received long awaited titles for lands that in some cases were first occupied by their forbears, former workers of the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo).
The handover of the titles took place in the heart of the community. Attorney General Anil Nandlall and Minister within the Housing Ministry, Susan Rodrigues, were on hand to distribute the titles to the 45 recipients.
In his address to the residents, Nandlall urged them to secure their titles in light of its importance. He pointed to the high incidents of property fraud in Guyana, as well as the shenanigans of the former A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance For Change (APNU/AFC) Government and advised them to get five copies or more of their original titles.
“Your certificate of title is a document of great legal and commercial value. Legal because it certifies you, in law, as the power of that property, and nobody can take it from you…unless you acquired it by fraud. Even the Government, no matter how powerful any President thinks or any Government feel they are, they can’t take away your title.
“The previous Government tried to do that to many people. And we took them to court and won every single case…I always tell people, make five copies of your title, as many as you can. Secure them all, because as you would have read in the newspapers, we have an unfortunately high rate of fraud in Guyana in relation to property,” Nandlall explained.
20+ year plus wait
In explaining the history of New Area, Nandlall noted that the residents of the area were allotted land over 20 years ago in the area by GuySuCo, with the promise that they would receive their titles.
“These persons would have been either sugar workers or descendants of sugar workers, who would have been allotted these lots by GuySuCo many moons ago, with a promise that titles would have been issued to the allottees. Obviously, that promise was not delivered upon in a timely manner, or at all.
So, the allottees came and began to occupy. They built their houses. They would have liked their titles to access loans, but that was not the case. They lived, some of them might have died, and they never got their titles. Some may have migrated. This sad situation was drawn to our attention, and we decided to address it.”
He explained that the Government began the process of giving them their titles since prior to 2015. Nandlall noted that one of the first things he ensured was done after the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) returned to Government last year was to meet with residents to complete the process.
Meanwhile, Minister Rodrigues noted that Guyana has one of the most progressive housing programmes in the region, a fact that has been observed by foreign dignitaries. In fact, she noted that Guyanese have grown so accustomed to the local housing policies that they perhaps do not appreciate how unique it is.
“The AG is correct when he said that our housing programme is perhaps one of the most comprehensive housing programmes in this hemisphere. I hear it all the time. When I meet with diplomats from other countries, they tell me all the time, because they’re curious about our housing sector and how we do our housing drive and provide affordable housing to Guyanese.
“And they’re always amazed when I explain the process to them. They’ve never heard of something like that before. They couldn’t understand Guyanese are entitled to a piece of land and acquiring affordable housing and the Government has a programme that subsidises this house lot allocation. One house lot costs us $3.5 million to develop, and we sell a house lot in some cases for $92,000,” Rodrigues explained.
Seepersaud Sewchand, one of the recipients of a house lot, was on Wednesday full of praise for the endeavour. According to him, efforts to finalise the process for him to receive his title under the former APNU/AFC Government were stymied, with one senior functionary of the former Government telling him to “go and talk to Jagdeo” for his title.
“I work at GuySuCo for 20 years, and I feel happy. I’m the oldest person in this area to fight for this title. After 18 years, after we get a change of Government, I glad we get we title today. I feel happy today,” Sewchand said.