November 23, 2012
North Leeward residents receive lands from Government

Fri, Nov 23, 2012

Two hundred and fifty-seven residents of North Leeward were earlier this week presented with letters {{more}} giving them the opportunity to purchase lands they have been adversely possessing for years.

During an official ceremony at the Golden Grove Learning Resource Centre at Chateaubelair on Monday, November 19, the residents accepted the letters which offer them the lands at a reduced price of 10 cents per square foot, in keeping with government’s policy of turning dead capital to live capital and their broader thrust of poverty reduction.

Speaking at the handing over ceremony, Minister of Housing, Informal Human Settlements, Lands and Surveys and Physical Planning Montgomery Daniel said the occasion was a significant one. Daniel told the gathering that when the Unity Labour Party (ULP) administration came to office in 2001, poverty levels in this country were extremely high. He said that the data showed that 37 per cent of the population was experiencing poverty and that 25 per cent was said to be indigent or “dirt poor.” The Housing Minister pointed out that after 12 years, his government has been able reduce poverty levels significantly so much so that “dirt poor” poverty has gone down to a remarkable three per cent.

Daniel added that the distribution of the housing plots is another concerted effort by the government in its continued fight against poverty in St Vincent and the Grenadines.

Director of Telecommunications, Science, Technology, Special Projects and Advisor to the Prime Minister Dr Jerrol Thompson said that he was pleased that North Leeward was benefitting from the largest distribution of lands from government so far. Thompson, who represented the constituency from 2001 to 2010 under the ULP administration said that he was shocked in 2001 to learn that in Fitz-Hughes, only two persons owned titles to their lands, while in Barracks, only another six persons had titles and another four persons in Sharpes had deeds. Dr Thompson said that the distribution of the offer letters fulfills one of his goals for the constituency, that is, to see that all families who have houses on lands be able to own a title deed to the said lands.

Delivering the feature address, Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves put the whole distribution of lands into context. Giving a historical overview of the land issue, the Prime Minister took the gathering back to 1763 to the Treaty of Paris where the British obtained possession of what we know as St Vincent and the Grenadines.

“Between 1763 and 1797 when Chatoyer was killed and the Garifuna and Kalinago peoples were defeated…the British took possession and the Garifuna and the Caribs who remained were placed in the north east of the island on 238 acres of lands, after they had owned nearly 100,000 acres before the British,” Dr Gonsalves explained.

“The Garifuna nation was entirely exterminated because of land!” the Prime Minster exclaimed.

Gonsalves further pointed out that even up to 2001, when his government came to office, situations still existed where parents, grandparents and great, great, grandparents have occupied lands for over 100 years and that their off-spring did not have a deed for those lands.

“This is something that this government and Comrade Ralph is determined to change,” he stated, to loud shouts and applause from the large gathering.

The Prime Minister also explained that his government could have given the 257 plots of lands for free, but that he believes that the 10 cents per square foot cost would engender a feeling of pride within the people and that they would feel that they are the rightful owners of the lands.(API)