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How long will people come buy lands?

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One week after the people of St Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) paid official homage to our last indigenous ruler, Paramount Chief Joseph Chatoyer on the occasion of National Heroes’ Day, we hosted a visit of royalty from another source.

ah lickle bit more dan de average man on de street. Maybe dat explains why last Thursday, ah was touched wid emotions when ah watched on good and ole faith-full SVG TV, de Nah-shun-all He-rows day ceremony and de message delivered by Acting Prime Minister Gumry Daniel at Chatoyer Hill. Why is dat place still proudly called Dorsetshire Hill, ah doh-kno! But ley me not tie-up me foot trying to explain who is Min Daniel, he could pass foh Carib, Garifuna, Calinago and all three ah dem. But he got his own ID as in Indigenous Description: Mr “No boat didn’t bring me hey” man. However, PM Gumry spoke from his heart, triggered by his experience as ah humble Carib, born and bread at Point, above Dry River. Orange Hill, now Rabacca Farm, means ah lot to him, as ah small youth he would have walked along de public road, thru de Orange Hill Estate, wid over 3,000 acres of coconut trees, den de world’s largest single coconut field. Hungry bussing his tail, dry coconut lined along de side ah de road, Guava tree laden on de road banks, but he knew he dare not touch anything, even along de public road belonging to Massah, for if he tried anything mek and de watchman, who was himself ah Carib sees (seize) him, he could ah get arrested.

No doubt de dream of every born’n’Bread Garifuna-Carib, including former pull-it-tek-all representatives from above Dry River: Peter Ballantyne, Monty Roberts and Gomry Daniel, and ah include Shearer Baptiste, was to own ah piece ah dat Estate, no matter how small, in Gumry’s case, is no matter how large.

Dat dream was made possible when Sir James acquired Orange Hill and many more Estates throughout SVG. Sir James, man wid Brer Nansi wisdom and vision foh people’s development. It was he who coined de slogan: “Dig ah better life!” He created possibilities foh every man on de Orange Hill Estate to own ah house spot and ah five acre plot, to “dig ah better life”, feed his family and build ah decent house. The five acre parcels were reduced to two and three acre plots so dat more residents could ah get.

When de ULP took Power, dey was lots ah boasting bout “Correcting ah Hysterical wrong” at Orange Hill. Under ULP Orange Hill Estate has seen its worst days, Coconut had already become His-story butArrowroot and Banana died in dey hands! It is as though all ah dat was deliberate, no market! no crop! no money oops, dey was Labour Love, Poor Relief! So wid nothing to come, all fall down, farmers began to abandoned dey lands, and Lie-Za say when some ah dem later tried to pay off, dey were told dat dey had forfeited de deal. Again dat too was deliberate. Forfeited lands became available to people dressed in de right colour to “own de land”. And dat is how people like Gumry and family “come-buy” lands.

Wid all fear-ness to Gumry, he’s Carib, Garifuna, Farmer and “Boat nah bring me hey!” Therefore, he is entitled to own lands in SVG much more so dan dem Infestors in Can-One, Mount Win, Peters (no) Hope. Initially only labourers and workers who sweat and toiled on de Orange Estate were given first priority to receive Estate Lands, so Gumry who was Labour, but not ah Labourer, did not qualify.

Nah forget Mother Pryam did say “It won’t be always so!” Gumry became Representative of de area and minister of all lands in SVG. So any vision he might have had of owning ah piece of his Carib ancestors’ lands, was now not only possible, but will become ah reality.

De records available suggest dat wid only days to go before Elections 2015, with great haste, Gumry, ah minister and member of Cabinet, secured Cabinet’s approval to purchase from Go-venom-mint, lands at Orange Hill, foh his closest relatives, no one else at dat time. Is not what he did, is how he drop it. Ole people say if ah thing looks like Filth! Smells like Filth! And even Tastes like Filth, den it must be Filth! And wid dat is gone ah gone again.

One Love Bassy

Bassy Alexander is a land surveyor, folklorist and social commentator.

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