Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Venezuela helps where Government refuses

Venezuelan embassy donates food to Buxton farmers

April 9, 2008

The Venezuelan embassy yesterday donated foodstuff to several displaced farmers of Buxton with promises of more help, even as the joint services continue to mow down farmlands aback of the village, as part of their security plan.
The donation valued at US$500 ($100,000) was handed over to the Neighbourhood Democratic Council (NDC) to be distributed to farmers — some of whom continue to lament the lack of access to their farms. The joint services had launched a massive bush-clearing exercise behind Buxton and Friendship early in February, to nab criminals they believed were hiding out there. The exercise resulted in several farmers being displaced and their farmlands destroyed. Government has since set up a compensation scheme.

Addressing the farmers at the handing over ceremony at the Buxton/Foulis NDC office yesterday, Venezuelan Ambassador to Guyana, Dario Morandy said in the spirit of cooperation his government was willing to assist the farmers. “Venezuela’s and Guyana’s hunger is the same… we will always have this passion to come to this community and help the poor,” Morandy said. He urged the farmers to be strong, noting that the challenge they were faced with was being experienced by other citizens of other countries. He told the gathering that the embassy responded to a request made by the NDC through the African Cultural Development Association. Morandy said the embassy’s support was based on the request, but the community should leave the door open for future assistance.

“Our support does not always have to be food, we can provide things to help you produce and help in the social development of the people,” the ambassador said.
Executive member of ACDA, Eric Phillips said the association, which has an ongoing drive for citizens to donate to the displaced farmers, had received requests from Chairman of the Buxton/Foulis NDC, Randolph Blair, for assistance. He said they forwarded those requests to all of the embassies here, but to date only the Venezuelan Embassy has responded. Phillips thanked Morandy and the people of Venezuela for the contribution, urging that others should follow.

Meanwhile, farmers told Stabroek News yesterday that not much had changed since the joint services operation commenced.
“If we damage the government property we would have to pay for it, so if the government damage our property they must pay for it,” Leroy Hamer, a cash and cane farmer said. The man said despite promises of compensation they have only received on average, 25% of the claims they made.
“They told us to make claims and when we make claims we ain’t getting what we put in for….”

He said to date no one had received 50 or 100% of the claims they made. “It is still rough here and nobody is coming to see us. It is over one month now this going on,” Hamer lamented.
At present, the farmers said, only those who are planting sugar cane are allowed to access their farms.
“I don’t know what is happening and when it will all end,” James Greaves, another farmer commented.

Hamer said persons who did not plant in the backlands, but would harvest coconuts there were also affected.
Another farmer said that the farmlands were not owned by the government but were ancestral lands. He said they had put a lot into developing the lands and it was unreasonable for the administration to destroy it. “We have donated a lot of energies to develop the lands, now we are in a struggle to use it,” the farmer said.

Government had announced that it would have cleared the dense vegetation aback of the villages stretching from Enmore to the East to Beterverwagting to the West. To date only Buxton and Friendship have been touched.

Following the slaughter of 11 people including five children at Lusignan on January 26 residents of Mon Repos and other surrounding communities had urged President Bharrat Jagdeo to clear the backlands of Buxton as they said it was the hideout for criminals. Gunmen operating out of Buxton in the past had resorted to the backlands for shelter after committing acts of violence.

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