EYEWITNESS: Land ahoy!!


…for land grabbers

Back in 1899, there was the famous (or infamous!) “great land rush” in the US, when their Government gave permission for what became their “Great Land Rush”. What it was, of course, was a “great land steal” since the US Government simply declared that two million acres of Indian Land could now be settled by whites. The Indians had been herded into “reservations” for “their own good”!!

Well, it appears Guyana’s about to have its own land rush – almost 200 years after our first, through the workings of the Commission of Inquiry  (CoI) into “African Ancestral” lands. Now first of all, as used by the international community, the term “ancestral lands” is a “term of art” – that is, it has a specific meaning. And whatever the variations for local conditions, it refers to lands which folks were occupying BEFORE the colonial invasions launched in the West by Columbus (1492) and in the East by Vasco Da Gama (1498) and which their descendants still occupy.

So right off the bat, if we go by that definition, in Guyana the term should properly be referring to what we call “Indigenous Peoples’ Lands”. But the Government has unnecessarily muddied up the (land) waters by arbitrarily dubbing lands bought by the freed slaves after 1838 as “ancestral” lands. There would be much less friction if the CoI would stick to questions on “African bought” lands. Which, in itself, ain’t gonna be simple!

What happened was the British wanted to keep the ex-slaves down on the sugar plantations but knew with all the lands available, the ex-slaves would prefer to decamp the scene of their humiliation. So to discourage purchases of estates – coffee, cotton, and cane – that were being abandoned at emancipation, the colonial Government passed a law stipulating that land could only be bought in plots of AT LEAST 100 ACRES!!

Now this was a lot of acreage and would cost a lot of money and the planters thought they’d checkmated the ex-slaves. They thought wrong!! The ex-slaves pooled their money and bought plantations JOINTLY. The problem in the present is while the individual occupiers might’ve demarcated their plots, they couldn’t pass it down to their children legally! Just informally.

So with the CoI claiming to be able to “solve” this problem which has become exponentially more complex since there have been at least seven “begats” in generational descendants! Not to mention sales to others. Unlike the real mother who didn’t want her child split by Solomon, the thousands of descendants actually WANT to have the land split!!
And therein lies a challenge that would stump Solomon, much less than the CoI!

…or still at sea on oil?

This oil business with the oil company is getting stranger and murkier every day. First of all, we still can’t get a copy of that contract. We now know we ain’t getting any more than two per cent on royalties…contrary to what Trotman “hinted”. But can’t he confirm whether Guyana will be getting even a penny from corporate taxes like every other company in Guyana pays? At least we’d be getting another 30 per cent of the piddling amount the oil company will be declaring as “profits” – AFTER they take out their 75 per cent expenses they will have total control over computing.

But Trotman made an interesting slip the other day when he allowed that he won’t be proceeding with his grandiose US$500 million “oil processing facility” he’s announced for Crab Island. Claims that the Muneshwar’ GYSBI Facility on the East bank has made his proposal redundant.

But Muneshwar said they were spending just US$10 million added to the US$20 million they spend to acquire the land.

What was Trotman going to do with the remaining US$470 million??

…for Warriors!!

With their massive trouncing of the Tridents the other night (Aw shucks…don’t remind your humble Eyewitness he predicted that!!) our Guyana Amazon Warriors are pretty much assured of a playoff berth.

But he’s still doing his special hex on the upcoming Tallawahs!!


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