Dear Editor,There is now land giving away galore at the Office of the Guyana Lands and Surveys Commission (GLSC) at Corriverton.On February 13, 2018, nearly 800 prospective and current cattle and rice farmers flocked the GLSC’s office to apply for lands located at the #52/66 Communal Pasture. Some even came all the way from the USA allegedly making gifts to certain officials in an attempt to get preferential treatment. It is also alleged that many local applicants followed suit. There was a haste to dispense of monies for favours – a typical Guyanese sickness!This pasture comprises 17,000 acres and has been in existence for decades but in the last 12 years or so, there has been a gradual fencing of portions of this pasture by cattle farmers who have been trying to stake ownership.This was accelerated since this coalition took office. These cattle farmers have been digging and fencing huge areas which makes it impossible to drain the Pasture since water is now being trapped in these canals. The drainage and irrigation system bore no structured design. This was evident during the heavy rainfall last year. The savannah was heavily flooded and the water took a long time to recede.Unfortunately, this has now progressed to the stage where the GLSC at Corriverton has been inviting and receiving applications from farmers inviting them to show an expression of interest. The Application Form is on the GLSC letterhead. These prospective applicants have been told that they should apply for the lands at that particular location.On many occasions, Agriculture Minister Noel Holder would have made statements on his visits to Region Six in support of the development of our cattle and dairy farming. This was also supported by Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo and the Junior Finance Minister Jaipaul Sharma. However, from the applications made, it is evident that many of these applicants, nearly 90 per cent, are rice farmers and many applicants do not own any cattle, especially those from abroad. It is apparent also that those overseas applicants have real estate intentions or intentions to rent the lands at a later date, especially when it is a known fact that many of the lease land owners reside abroad and are renting their lands for hefty rental fees.Moreover, many cattle farmers would have complained to the PM’s representative in Region Six, Gobin Harbhajan, about the constant problems and struggles they face with rice farmers and it is clear that should rice be planted in localised areas within this savannah, then bloody and murderous conflicts may arise among these farmers.It is indeed baffling why the Commissioner of the GLSC, Trevor Benn has not seen it fit to discuss this matter at length with Regional Chairman David Armogan so that a collective decision can be made at the Regional Democratic Council (RDC) level. Many times, the GLSC would try to impose its will in the region and the RDC have had to block the applications after the matters were reported by the affected Neighbourhood Democratic Councils (NDC).I have two cases at the Kilcoy/Hampshire NDC where communal pastures of more than 200 acres have been applied for and claimed by avaricious individuals to the detriment of the residents who now have no pastures to rear their animals. Although the applications to the GLSC were blocked by the RDC upon my intervention, the individuals went ahead and fenced the lands.These communal pastures should remain as that and should not become the private property of greedy individuals. There are lands available in remote areas – let them apply for those. Everyone should have access to these pastures to rear their cattle and it is the function of the Government to provide access roads and proper drainage to facilitate this. Why would Trevor Benn desire to commit such an injustice?Yours sincerely,Haseef YusufRDC Councillor –Region SixChairman (Kilcoy/Hampshire NDC)
WINNIPEG – About two weeks before her death, 15-year-old Tina Fontaine asked for a ride from Winnipeg to the home where she had grown up, court was told Monday.Family friend Steven Whitehurst told court he didn’t receive Tina’s social media message immediately and it was the last time he heard from her.“She wanted a ride back,” Whitehurst told the second-degree murder trial of Raymond Cormier. “She was asking if we’d left yet.”Whitehurst said he knew Tina all her life and had been in a long-term relationship with one of her aunts. He testified that he saw Tina a few times the summer of 2014 and, on July 28, was heading to Fort Alexander, a community near the home where Tina had been raised by a great-aunt.He told court he didn’t get Tina’s message on his cellphone for some time because he was already driving through an area with spotty cell coverage. By then, it was too late.Fontaine’s body was pulled from the Red River in August. She had been wrapped in a duvet cover that also contained rocks to weigh her down.Her death led to renewed calls for a national inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women.Crown attorney James Ross told court in his opening statement that Tina grew up in a safe and happy environment near the Sagkeeng First Nation, a 90-minute drive northeast of Winnipeg, but was sexually exploited after going to the city to visit her mother.Other friends and relatives testified Monday they saw Tina in the summer of 2014.One of her aunts, Angie Duck, said Tina appeared well and had nice clothes on when she snapped a photo of family members July 22. Another aunt, Lana Fontaine, recalled Tina sleeping over at her place for two nights on the August long weekend. Tina stopped by another time and was cold so she was given a sweater, Lana Fontaine said.The trial, now into its second week, has to date largely dealt with forensic evidence and experts.The jury has heard from a pathologist who said he could find no definitive cause of death. Tina’s body showed no obvious signs of injuries or blunt-force trauma. There was also no DNA evidence from Cormier on the duvet cover in which she was wrapped.The Crown has produced three witnesses who say Cormier owned the same style of duvet cover. The cover had a distinctive pattern that of scattered leaves and was only available in Winnipeg at three Costco stores.Last week, a woman who lived at a house where Cormier slept in a backyard tent said she saw two hole from cigarette burns in the duvet cover he had.On Monday, the jury got to see the duvet that was wrapped around Tina. Winnipeg police Const. Garrett Carrette showed the jury two holes.Under cross-examination, Carrette agreed with Cormier’s lawyer that the holes looked like rips or tears in the fabric.