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Legal Battle brewing in Guyana over demolition of Afro-Guyanese Community

Armed Police with a heavy-duty equipment used for the demolition on January 5, 2023

One month after the government of Guyana demolished homes in a community called Cane View on the outskirt of the capital city, Georgetown, affected residents have instructed their lawyers to move to the court.

Cane View is an African-Guyanese community that developed on a stretch of abandoned land that was formerly used for sugar cane cultivation. To make matters worse, the residents claim the land is part of ancestral lands snatched from their fore parents by a sugar estate.

On January 5, this year the Government deployed heavily armed police and heavy-duty equipment to demolish the homes of residents who rejected overtures to relocate. The community which had more than 36 families, is now flattened.

The residents are claiming that they acquired legal rights to remain on the disputed plots of land which are now prime real estate with the construction of a four-lane highway that runs through the area coupled with Guyana’s oil boom. They have rejected the government’s contention that they are squatters without rights.

About nine of the residents have retained New York based International Lawyer, Dr. Vivian Williams, along with Lyndon Amsterdam to fight their case. After failed efforts by the lawyers to initiate mediation with the government, the affected residents have decided to take their grievance to the court.

Dr. Williams says that it was proper to give the government an opportunity to resolve the issue before resorting to litigation. The lawyers stress the value of conflict resolution, noting that the government could still grasp the opportunity to engage in sensemaking.

Candacie Williams looks at land where the only place she called home for all her life once stood.

The crux of the matter is whether the laws of Guyana permit the government to mow down an entire community that existed for decades and after residents expended substantial sums, merely because title was not formally acquired by the residents.

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“The precedent that will be established when all the facts and circumstances are considered is that laws of Guyana protect against the wanton destruction of a well-established community such as Cane View” says Dr. Williams.

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