Dharamlall orders audit of BV/Triumph NDC after residents allege sale of ancestral lands

0
Local Government Minister Nigel Dharamlall

Minister of Local Government and Regional Development, Nigel Dharamlall has instructed an immediate audit of the operations of the BV/Triumph Neighbourhood Democratic Council (NDC), after allegations surfaced about attempts by the Council to sell ancestral lands in the community.

Minister Dharamlall was told of the attempts on Thursday, when he met with residents.

One resident, Paul King, presented documents showing two separate transactions between the NDC and private parties.

“One of our lots that we paid our tax for only in November was up for sale in sections G and F and so, in my possession I have evidence of letters of agreement of sale between the NDC, John Fernandes and some Mohamed [about these lands],” he added.

Other residents agreed that the situation is disheartening as it demonstrates the local organ’s blatant disregard for their view.

NDC Chair Jimmaul Bagot, refuted the allegations. He explained that in 2019, the Council retrieved a document showing it owns 200 acres of land in sections F and G, Beterverwagting. He said in 2021, the NDC received a proposal from John Fernandes Limited seeking to develop lands in those areas, to service the oil and gas and housing sectors.

Following a series of consultations, the Council decided against the sale of the land, however, that decision was not upheld.

Bagot said, “we would sell them one section (G) and we would ask that they develop that section (F) and this is to ensure residents of Beterverwagting gain access to the lands.”

He reminded residents that the Council is solely relying on its legal document stating ownership, and claimed it is not the Council’s intention to sell lands illegally.

“We have failed villagers in regards of not letting them know what was going on, and we would have allowed it to reach to the point where persons came up with their own ideas and ran with it.”

Earlier this year, similar allegations were brought against the NDC by residents.

Minister Dharamlall had committed to addressing the matter due to the seriousness and gravity of the claims. He said the lack of leadership, as well as poor performance by the NDC resulted in this conflict, which has stymied the community’s development.

“It looks like a lot of business is being done by this Council, and the residents are unaware of what is happening. Likewise, too, I get the impression that the work of the Council is not above board and from the responses of the residents,” Minister Dharamlall said.

Another troubling matter raised was the use of a US$10,432,263 concessionary loan agreement with the CARICOM Development Fund (CDF), in 2016.

The grant was allocated to restore and upgrade drainage and irrigation canals, provide farming equipment, and install drainage pumps in communities such as Buxton, Beterverwagting, Ithaca and Mocha-Arcadia.

Some 155 kilometres of drains were set to be constructed along with 14 kilometres of fair-weather dams to ensure farmers gain access to 2,500 acres of lands.

Some 1,200 farmers were earmarked to benefit, by re-establishing the country’s agricultural export capacity within CARICOM, while supplying the domestic market. However, the result of this project is yet to be seen.

Minister Dharamlall assured residents that government will investigate.

“I would have to speak to my colleagues to see how best we could have an investigation into how this money was spent because from what I’ve heard today, from the farmers, the development work was never completed.”

Such infractions will not occur under the watch of the Dr. Ali-led Government, Minister Dharamlall affirmed, while committing to providing assistance to improve the lives of all Guyanese. [Extracted and Modified from DPI]