4 February 2008
His Excellency Mr.
President of the
Office of the President
Vlissengen Road & New Garden Streets
The People’s National Congress Reform and I have already publicly condemned the atrocity at and expressed our support for the Security Forces doing what is necessary to bring the perpetrators to justice.
I wish, however, to bring to your attention the wanton destruction of property that is taking place while the Security Forces conduct their exercise to find the criminals who carried out the gruesome murders, as well as the harsh treatment of some residents, particularly youth, by the Security Forces.
On Saturday last, February 2, after receiving continuous phone calls from angry residents of Buxton, I visited that village to verify the accuracy of the allegations being made. Words are difficult to describe what I observed. The video footage during my visit provides accurate evidence of what took place and I am willing to make this available to you.
Several homes that I visited were torn apart, property and furniture damaged, food items strewn across the floor and the scenes quite lamentable. In one village shop, I observed most of the items for sale dumped on the floor with the smell of kerosene oil quite evident.
I am not questioning the need for searches by the Security Forces. However, in the absence of any further explanation being given to these residents that are victims of this wanton destruction, there is need for a government guarantee that compensation will be provided to those persons whose property have been damaged. I have advised all residents to prepare a proper list of the damage suffered and would wish to be advised what procedures will be followed to ensure speedy compensation.
I also wish to bring to your attention that there are bona fide farmers who, because of unpleasant past experiences during such operations, are fearful and/or unable to attend their farms during this period. No one has shown the respect for them and thought it necessary to meet and/or brief them about the present exercise that is adversely affecting their lives and livelihood.
Today, Monday 4th February, I received several telephone calls from residents of the village that bulldozers have arrived there and the information, unofficially obtained by them, is that these machines are intended to bulldoze and clear the entire back-lands. No information has been provided about this intended destruction of their private property and possible destruction of their farms and only means of livelihood.
While we support the Security Forces in their fight against crime, I cannot and will not condone any action that is contrary to the law and perceived by most as vindictive. The only conclusion is that a determined effort is being made by some to undermine the security effort by alienating, rather than endearing, the members of the community that can possibly be of support to the Security Forces at this crucial time.
The logic of “removing all the vegetation” from the backlands as a security measure boggles my mind. The farmers have been crying out in vain for years for assistance in drainage and irrigation and the repair of infrastructure to maximize the productive capacity of the lands and improve their livelihood. The Government has turned a deaf ear over this period but could now find resources in millions of dollars to destroy fruit trees planted by their ancestors and for which there could never be adequate compensation.
I am sure that, with a little imagination and discussion with the stakeholders, a plan for the proper use of those resources to rehabilitate the farmlands can be devised: A plan that would fulfill security goals while at the same time ensuring the improvement of the livelihood of residents of the area. I am prepared to make such a plan, prepared several years ago, available to you.
I am copying this letter to the Chief of Staff and the Commissioner of Police (ag) who may be in a better position to give some justification of the need for this type of exercise being conducted and the manner in which it is being done. I urge them to carry out their mandate in a responsible and professional manner in the interest of social cohesion and progress.
I am also requesting that the Government provides adequate details on its proposed plans for compensation and again urge you to seriously consider the matters that I have now brought to your attention.
Robert H O Corbin, MP
Leader of the People’s National Congress Reform &
Leader of the Opposition
c.c. Mr. Henry Greene, DSM
Commissioner of Police (ag)
Commodore Gary Best
Chief of Staff