Mocha squatters attempting to squeeze hundreds of millions from Govt

The content originally appeared on: News Americas Now

Black Immigrant Daily News

The content originally appeared on: INews Guyana
The area at Cane View/Herstelling (Mocha) that is being occupied by squatters, who are hindering the Eccles-to-Great Diamond Highway Project

As Government continues with efforts to have the squatters removed from the Cane View/Herstelling (Mocha), East Bank Demerara area, it has been revealed that some of these persons continue to make “spurious and unreasonable” demands as compensation, including cash several times the value of the property they are illegally occupying.

In a Notice published in today’s edition of Guyana Times by the Housing and Water Ministry, it has been indicated that seven individuals remain non-compliant and continue to stall the development of the Eccles-to-Great Diamond Highway – a road project that seeks to ease traffic congestion for thousands of commuters along the East Bank Demerara corridor.

Some 28 persons who were squatting on reserves have already been relocated from the path of the highway, and have rebuilt new homes in nearby residential areas through Government compensation. However, the Ministry has disclosed that while it stands ready to make available move-in-ready, single-flat, two-bedroom housing units in the Little Diamond Housing Scheme for these seven non-compliant persons, these efforts have been met with harsh and irrational resistance.

“The seven squatters have been offered full compensation for their existing illegal property, a free residential house lot, a grace period to facilitate construction of their new homes, and 5 acres each of lease lands by the Guyana Lands and Surveys Commission. These offers have been rejected on all fronts,” the Ministry detailed in the Notice.

One of these persons is Lovella Doris, whose property has been valued at $7.2 million but she is demanding $100 million from Government, along with the condition that she remains in the Cane View area despite being offered a two-bedroom, move-in-ready home.

The Ministry said documentation is being processed in the courts in relation to her case.

Squatter Joyann Alexis Ellis is also asking for $100 million in farm lands in exchange for her relocation from her property, which has been valued at $8.6 million. According to the Ministry, an offer of farmland at Long Creek, Soesdyke-Linden Highway, has been made to her.

Another valuation was done at the property of Leon Liefde, but he is not satisfied with the $11.5 million being offered.

Meanwhile, Junior Ellis had his property valued at $5.5 million, but is demanding $150 million, along with farmlands from Government.

In relation to squatter Anneita Beaton, she signed the settlement agreement with the Housing Ministry but has not uplifted the cheque, and is now asking for $45 million in addition to farmlands. Her property was valued at $14.3 million.

Sheldon Eastman, whose property was valued at $3.4 million, is demanding an additional $3.5 million to complete his house at Plantation Farm, EBD and $100 million as a final settlement.

The Ministry has since hired a contractor to carry out the remaining works on his new home.

According to the Housing Ministry, Liefde, Ellis, Beaton and Eastman were all served their final relocation notice since June 27, 2022.

Nevertheless, the Notice further stated, the Ministry, and the Government by extension, stands ready to work with all Guyanese in their best interest, but will no longer stand by and allow the nation’s development to be held hostage by illegal activities of any sort.

“Should the last offer be rejected by these illegal squatters, the Ministry will have no other choice but to proceed with a demolition exercise,” the Notice detailed.

In fact, the Ministry attempted to resume a demolition exercise on Tuesday, but the situation developed into a standoff with the squatters for several hours. During the confrontation, members of the APNU/AFC Opposition, including Opposition Leader Aubrey Norton, Georgetown Mayor Ubraj Narine, and several Coalition Members of Parliament, were present.

According to reports, the squatters are maintaining that they are not being adequately compensated, and Norton has been quoted in another section of the media as saying that the Government only wants the squatters to move in order to facilitate its own supporters on the land.

Moreover, the squatters, along with the Opposition Members, are claiming that they are not in the path of the road project.

As recently as in November 2022, Housing and Water Minister Collin Croal had called out the APNU/AFC Opposition for urging the persons occupying the Government reserves not to relocate.

Croal had contended that extensive work was done to ensure the residents were relocated to developed housing schemes and were adequately compensated based on the market value of their structures on the reserves.

As such, he had said the Opposition was being ‘reckless’ and is not interested in the development and upliftment of the very people it claims to represent.

“Those persons [the squatters] would have never been able to be regularised or have a document for ownership, as well as to [be able to] apply for utility in terms of electricity and water…,” the Minister stated.

Croal further noted that the process to remove the squatters was done in a way to minimise living disruption of the families, while making sure that homeownership is legally achieved as a means of building generational wealth.

Some of the residents who were relocated to the Farm-Herstelling housing areas have begun construction of their new homes, while others have already completed their structures.