Police called again as tensions over Belle Vue farmlands intensify

first_imgBy Shemuel FanfairIt was high drama again at Belle Vue, West Bank Demerara on Thursday when farmers blocked the Belle Vue Cane Farmers Marketing Co-op Society Chairman’s machinery from clearing farmlands they say has rightfully been theirs for more than 60 years. However, as the events unfolded, popular businessman Deodat Deokinandan, who has been chair of the society since 2013, denied ever threating the farmers as he accused them of squatting on the Society’s land.Police ranks called in to settle tensions that erupted on ThursdayThe intense emotions played out during the morning hours in a usually quiet community which lies near the defunct Wales Sugar Estate. Farmers were adamant that the Co-op Society and Deokinandan, called “Beard Man”, would not touch an inch of the farmland as they blocked an excavator from land clearing operations as they renewed claims of being bullied. This stemmed from an initial stand off from Sunday afternoon after the Society opted to fence sections of the lands and allow cows to graze in the fields which was incensed farmers over their loss of investment.“He bully us and take the number three section; now we got all this cultivation here and he bullying us for the number four section but we nah decide for this hymac go in one inch here; it got to come out because he taking advantage on us because he has money. He want walk pon all these poor people but this is the end of everything,” farmer Imraz Hassan declared as he stood in front of the hymac.Aggrieved farmer Rampertab RajpatHe made his position clearly known when ranks from the Wales Police Station arrived on the scene in a bid to settle escalating tensions. When tensions were less animated on Sunday, one rank had spoken with the sparring farmers that he wanted to preserve law and order but Thursday’s face-off saw a more boisterous demonstration.“This hymac come here illegally. This is not “Beard Man’s” property; this is the Society’s property and this land belongs to the Government of Guyana. We are farmers’ children that lived here for 60-odd years,” Rampertab Rajpat told this newspaper as he told stood in front of the heavy-duty machine.After sugar operations ceased, descendants of Belle Vue farmers moved to plant diversified crops but the businessman, along with several of his central committee members, categorised the demonstrators as squatters.SquattingThe Society provided documents purporting to show that many of the farmers allegedly sold their shares to the society while others supposedly relinquished their lands for the society to operate.“I am never a bully and will never be a bully. These people come illegally and squat on the Society’s land and it is not the right thing to do and dem ah seh de President tell them to do that… I don’t know who is the real bully but these people already take compensation from the Society; some in 2011 and some in 2014,” Deokinandan explained.The Co-op Society shows that Ganpat Rajpat was paid $1.5 million in compensationHe says the cows grazing in the lands fenced off are legally placed since this was passed during a general meeting of the Society. He also denied claims that he has been threatening the farmers at Belle Vue. Society Secretary Antoinette Manichand meanwhile said many of the farmers were errant members and were taken to arbitration for not paying their share of fees in land rentals to the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo). She observed that it would be unfair for the Society’s contributing members to offset the costs for those who were not paying their dues. It was earlier explained by members that the descendants were reportedly no longer interested in cultivating sugar cane.“The arbitrator gave them a month and a half to pay off their debts and they didn’t pay up so gradually we expelled them and we accepted new members but they going about reaching Government officials until the matter reached the Cabinet with Dr Roger Luncheon. We had a meeting with them and they agree to accept compensation,” she said.She also claimed one such farmer was Francis Ferreira who was allegedly paid $290,000 in compensation; a cheque made out in the name of the businessman, while others were paid hundreds of thousands and some over a million dollars for their fields. She provided documents to this effect. Guyana Times spoke to an unmoved Ferreira who outright denied giving up his land rights.Another scene from the heated stand-off which left the hymac suspended“I aint give up no rights; its three years after bullying that people accept money due to frustration… the Cabinet minutes said the farmers should be reinstated. I am prepared to go, this hymac is going to walk over me today!” expressed Ferreira.However, the machine was removed from the area just before lunchtime. Thereafter the farmers moved to protest the Co-Op Society in the afternoon. Nevertheless, the grazing cows and fences erected could remain in place as the society maintained that since farmers lost their rights it does not intend to pay compensation for the crops they have been planting since 2017. Deokinandan held out that he, nor his society, is obligated to pay any compensation owing to the farmers “squatting” on the land.The Belle Vue farmers are descendants of multiple sugar cane workers turned farmers who came from all across Guyana and were contracted with Bookers company to supply canes to Wales and live in the Belle Vue Pilot Scheme from 1956. Cane operations ended with Government’s closure of Wales Estate in December 2016.last_img

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