Letter to the Editor:
The solution to the African land problem lies with the politicians not the courts
I refer to a letter captioned ‘Clarifying misconceptions’ about ancestral lands (KN) July 18, in which R Edmonds purports to educate us on ancestral lands. I wish to make the following points:
1. Manumitted Africans began purchasing plantations before 1840.
2. They did not set up villages; instead, their plantations were made into villages by Ordinance No. 1 of 1866 of the colonial parliament against their will. This Ordinance created a Board of Villages for the first time in British Guiana, and gave it the authority to declare what places should become villages.
Armed with this ordinance the Board of Villages began to take control of the plantations purchased by the manumitted Africans.
They appointed their own village chairman, overseers and collector of rates and taxes, etc, in total disregard of the manumitted Africans who were the owners of these plantations by transport.
3. The Board of Villages did not declare the plantation owned by Bookers and other Europeans to be villages; those plantations have remained plantations or estates to this day, such as Ogle, Enmore, LBI, Houston, Blairmont, Leonora, etc.
4. Manumitted Africans purchased in excess of 10,000 acres of land. They purchased approximately 100 plantations with the approximate size of 500 acres each and with the approximate value of one million pounds at that time.
Victoria has 500 acres, Buxton has 368 acres, Friendship EBD has in excess one thousand acres. Twenty times the size of Victoria is equal to the 10,000 acres claimed by Mr Edmonds, and the manumitted Africans had purchased over one hundred such estates including the following twenty: Victoria, Buxton, Golden Grove, Nabacalis, Beterverwagting, Plaisance, Thomas Lands, Kitty, Bagotville, Peter’s Hall, Bagotstown, Agricola, Mocha Arcadia, Hopetown, Belladrum, Friendship EBD, and ECD and Ithaca.
5. Mr Edmonds is wrong when he states that the manumitted Africans and their descendants had retained their undisturbed possession of the plantations purchased. The usurper village councils had disturbed their possession and had dispossessed them of many of their transported lands.
ACDA was right to approach the government of the day for the resolution of our land issues, because the original transports for these plantations cannot be located, except for Friendship EBD. Officials of the Deeds Registry claim that these transports are at the archive and the officials at the archive claim that the records are too fragile for research. It is useless to approach the court without the original transports; the proper course of action is to petition the head of state for the resolution of this matter.
Applying for house lots is recommended to descendents of manumitted Africans, but it is not the solution to the problems of ancestral lands, and the descendants of manumitted Africans who so apply and pay for such house lots may very well be applying and paying for lands which are theirs by inheritance.
Ethnarch of the