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Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves. (iWN file photo)
Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves. (iWN file photo)

Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves has defended his government’s decision to acquire a portion of land that has been in a family for 100 years, after notices to vacate were giving to non-compliant tenants who had occupied the land for a quarter of that time.

“I just want to ask you, P, John, would you like to see, john, 15, 20 families have to move with their children? After living there for 25 years?” Gonsalves said on WE FM on Sunday, addressing Philbert John, one of the hosts of the programme, who raised the issue with him.

Last Tuesday, Simone Murray, the manager of the McLean estate in Richmond Hill (also referred to as Murray’s Village) said that she felt as if she was living in a communist state with the manner in which the government had acquired some three acres of the land.  

Murray detailed to iWitness News in a video interview — published on Sunday — the reasons why her family has asked 11 of the 16 tenants to vacate the land, which her great grandfather bought in 1921, according to a deed seen by iWitness News.

She said that for almost 15 years, her family has been trying to bring order to the property, on which several of the tenants have refused to pay their rent, which ranges from EC$50 to EC$300 a year.

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She said that while there is five acres of land remaining on the estate, distributed to various members of the extended family, only a small portion of it is suitable for housing.

Other areas of the land are prone to land slippage and rock falls, Murray told iWitness News, adding that on two occasions, the National Emergency Management Organisation (NEMO) had had to relocate families after their homes were damaged by landslides.

Some of the tenants remain on the land although the court ordered them to vacate since 2015 – the last year when some of the tenants have paid rent for the land.

Murray accused the Gonsalves’ government of acting high-handedly in its compulsory acquisition of the land.

Murray said that the government acquired the land after some of the tenants so lobbied and she said that in acting as it did, the government was rewarding bad behaviour.

She said that there is no survey plan and her family was unsure about which portion of the land the state had acquired and how much the state was proposing to pay for it.

Murray said that as a breast cancer survivor, she is more concerned in growing her own food and wants to use her portion of the land for agriculture.

Her cousin owns a portion of the land, Murray told iWitness News, adding that only 11 of the 16 families have been asked to vacate the land since the others live on the periphery.

‘public policy of facilitating people with housing’

In his comments on Sunday, Gonsalves said that a number of persons who live on the land had written to him.

“And as you are aware, the government has a public policy of facilitating people with housing. If somebody — people who are an informal human settlement, we try our best to keep them there and let them get title to what they have there. Or we put them somewhere else,” Gonsalves said on the interactive show on which, as the only caller, he spoke for about one hour.  

The prime minister continued:

“I’ve read all sorts of things and I don’t want to comment adversely on anybody there. I mean, I don’t know well, Dr. Murray who has written on this matter,” he said, referring to Simone’s husband, Wayne Murray, a physician.

“But I know his wife who is a wonderful woman, and anytime we meet, we talk, if she happens to be at the airport, she’s leaving, she’s a good professional woman too.”

Gonsalves said he had heard it being said that the land “is not good for any development”

Letter to tenant

He continued:

“Well, the letter to one person who wrote me and there’re a number of persons. I’m just given a sample. I happen to have the file here because I want to make sure that the person from the property get their money and so on.”

The prime minister read what he said was a letter Mrs Murray sent to one of the tenants in June.

The letter, according to Gonsalves, said:

“I hereby act on behalf of Mrs. Beverly Agard Lewis, to serve notice to vacate the lands of Mrs. Beverly Agard Lewis on or before June 5th, 2021. To date, all our interactions have been very cordial. However, the landowner would like to develop her said property, and therefore, notice is being served on you. We thank you for your understanding in the foregoing and do wish you all the best in seeking alternative living arrangements.”

Tennant writes PM

Gonsalves also read what he said was a letter to him from one of the tenants.

He pointed out that the letter did not have “all the best punctuation and so on”.

“So if I read it — this is addressed to me. ‘Dear Honourable Prime Minister, I’m writing to you this letter as I bring my plight to you. And the reasons are for the past 25 years I am living in the community of Murray Village on the McLean land, the people who was living there was very polite, good relationship before they died. Then Trumpet offered to sell me a piece of land, a spot, but I was very unfortunate in that regard. Apparently she died.’

“Then they go on and say that since a certain event happened, I’m not going to read that because there you know, it goes on and this person says, ‘My girlfriend died recently and myself and my four children are living so that mean I don’t have a place of abode for myself.

“Honourable Mr. Prime Minister, I am, therefore, kindly ask of you to please used your good office at this appropriate time and see if you can assisted me concerned my plight expeditiously. It is a matter that I don’t have anywhere else where I can go and built a house. I mean land. Thank you for your kind consideration. And I shall be very grateful if my request be granted.’”

Gonsalves commented:

“Now, I read the letter as written. And I leave out a part where he makes certain allegations about certain persons — not against, I must add, Simone Murray. So, there it is.

“Now, the thing is this, we have to act. But I am always open to any further discussions. If the amount of land, if everybody can hold on one acre and there are three acres or whatever the case may be, and we see how the thing could work out but we had to move expeditiously. We really didn’t have much time.”

However, John asked if, based on this circumstance it was thought that compulsory acquisition was necessary.

“Yes. That’s what the cabinet decided upon on advice given,” the prime minister said.

“I always want to be fair with everybody. I’m telling you that if anybody who knows me… I must tell you. You can’t help being touched by certain things. I’m talking about children being put off of property,” Gonsalves said.

He further stated:

“Believe me; none of this gives me any joy but children on the land, man. People have been living there for a long time. This got nothing to do with any politics you know?”

The prime minister said that he is a “Matthew chapter 25 man”, adding that the Bible chapter has three dimensions.

“The first one, you have to plan things. So you have to put a little oil in a lamp and keep it burning.

“The second is the parable of the talents, you can’t hide your talents, develop your talents, but you can’t go and waste your talents. 

“And the third thing, the third aspect of Matthew chapter 25 … if you don’t have food to eat, we go [will] make sure people get food, if you don’t have drink, we go make people get drink. If you don’t have a roof over your head, we go try and see what we can do.

“This doesn’t mean that they’re not people who have real problems with their housing and their eating and so on and so forth. “Because I get the feeling that there are some people who feel that if you see a picture with a house, which is in a terrible condition. I would say yes, it’s in a terrible condition and I will fix it. And we have fixed thousands since I’ve been in office,” Gonsalves said.

Some persons, commenting on the development, said that the prime minister’s perspective might be aided by the fact that Edward McLean, several generations ago, might have been inspired by Proverbs 13:22, which says, “A good man leaves an inheritance to his children’s children”, — an inheritance of which his government is now depriving the McLean clan, even as the state has ample lands elsewhere.

“This David could benefit from a conversation with Nathan, as per 2 Samuel 12,” another person commented.

21 replies on “PM cites Bible in defence of ‘communist’ land acquisition”

  1. Hashtag Prince says:

    Pure Bullshit….SMH….UNFAIR ACQUISITION!!!!

    So l see,….ULP is God over SVG…..?????

    Father God speak to them from the mountain.

  2. My goodness. People of SVG need to wake up!! You are sleeping too much!!! For the PM to be trying to defend this high-handed action by his government speaks volume. Why didn’t he offer the tenants crown lands? This is passed insane. The Murrays are absoultely right: this is clearly communism in action.
    For all of you who agree with the PM and his government on this, you all are bewitched by them. My desire is to wish you hell but may God have mercy on you for this wicked, unjust act.

  3. Fidus Achates says:

    Watch a wicked regime. This current administration time has elapsed. Time for them to go with these wickedness.

  4. Wickedness in high places..remember God doesn’t sleep..wake up svg your country is a dictatorship now under this government

  5. My Grandparents has 12 children and has left land for all their children and the ones in our family that has passed on has left their part of the land for their children and grandchildren and I dare Ralph Gonsalves to come say he go take our land to give somebody else I double dare you

  6. Ralph I am so pissed that I referred to you not by your honorable name . Howeer, since you are dishonorable, I am bound to do the same to you. Whether or not someone is living on the Mc Clean estate for 25 years doesn’t entitled the holder to acquire paper title, since they are under a rental agreement/control .The parties to the rental agreement are bound to honour the terms of the contract.

    There are rules in place if satisfied which entitled someone to acquire title by hostile possession. What you have done to Simone Mc Clean is nothing short of high handedness and constitutes a travesty. I have lost what remains of my respect for you and your government who in the past had all respect.

    I understand your Government thinking behind the whole transaction. East Kingstown is considered a marginal constituency. Hence your action is nothing but self serving. I asked that you consider your action in the interest of fairness should you still have a bit of conscience and decorum left.
    History will not absolve you if you go ahead and use your strong arm of the law to dispossess the Mc Clean from the rightful possession of their property . Further, I do not know Simone, however, the honorable Malcolm X said that injustice anywhere is a threat to justice every where.

  7. Comrade Ralph the Tennantsame know if they stop pay their rent and they run to papa they will certainly get a receptive ear from you. Whether or not the Tennantsame have children and would be ordered to go elsewhere is not the b responsibility of. Simone but is the b responsibility of government.

    Tour take away the decision of Simone as to which part of her property she will like to part with is unfair at best. Consultation with the paper holder of title is of paramount importance. However, to repossess her property with due process and with the natural justice and procedural fairless is tantamount to.communist ideology to which you subscribe.

    If it’s your government’s intention to abrogated the rule of law and replace it with communism, then you owe us a duty to have such a discussion and possible a referendum on the matter. You were loud and clear when in your opinion democracy was threatened in Guyana. Citizens should picket the UN to express their displeasure.

    Comrade in.Parliament last week you expressed you displeasure with the displeasure of the disappearance of five Garifuna men .You sent letter to every corner of the globe to express you displeasure .Here in St Vincent Democracy is threatened. VincentIan should picketake the VincentIan embassy in New York and all over the globe as you did in the Garifuns case .You.have set a precedence.

  8. Why don’t the government relocate these persons to the many crown lands that are available to the state? The Bible speaks of leaving an inheritance to the next and future generation. Mac Clean obviously did just that. This land has been in the family for 100 years and it is obvious the family members wish yo continue this legacy.
    Governments of SVG has continue this terrible policy of placing large numbers of poor persons next to each other and we have seen how these homes with numerous social and financial issues have produced offsprings that congregate , commiserate and plot malicious deeds. Look at Sharpe’s, Montrose, Campden park, Glen, Diamond, Ottley Hall.
    Why not purchase one / two house spot in different communities and place these persons there. Spread them out so kids from different background can intermingle. The kids from the poor ( most often single parent households) can visit the kids from household with fathers . Hopefully learn about male responsibility, values and integrity and other solid charactetistics.

  9. Amos Greaves. says:

    Why.the PM don’t give a piece of his real estate in gorse? Why is the opposition silent on the issue? Why didn’t the government consult with the owners first to determine whether or not there were options available?

  10. Many true Christians are quite keenly aware that Satan too, is quite apt to quote the Bible, as he so did in “the temptation of the Lord Jesus Christ”. (Luke’s (Luke 4:1–13) and Matthew’s (Matthew 4:1–11).

    So therefore, when Ralph Gonsalves takes to quoting scripture, in order to justify his disgustingly, horrible, delinquent and unjust Communist policy, such could never at all be in any way surprising. It is normally the way rouges tend to justify their utterly bad behaviour.

    P.M, Ralph Gonsalves we have observed, has self-styled himself on that now dead old Communist, Fidel Castro and his protégé too, Hugo Chavez. That we Vincentians are now here suffering the sad consequences of Ralph Gonsalves’s horrible excesses, can only be noted as our own stupid fault.

    Communism we all know, never works, has never worked but has always been the ideology for scoundrels, rogues, reprobates and those who are envious of others. Tyrannical ne’er-do-wells who are apt to usurp political power and steal the goods of others, only to engage themselves in “Swiss Bank Communism”.

    These “Swiss Bank Communist” usual mantra is, what is mine is mine but what is yours we share!

  11. The devil knows the Bible inside out, but will never obey it, some mortal will even quote it to get what they want.

  12. So far it looks like ZERO Vincentians support the PM on this one. This family was very kind in allowing these poor people to rent from them at such a low price and then giving them YEARS to vacate. It is terrible that the PM has decided in favor of these renters that have obviously taken advantage of this kind land-owning family.
    Why does it seem to happen so often in SVG that bad behavior is rewarded and kindness is punished?

  13. I think he is testing the waters. Why aren’t SVG protesting, today for Murray tomorrow for someone else.

  14. Pm! U totally unjust,,will u do that to yourself? Do your job professionally and find government land for the people and stop the bullshitting!

  15. Pm how is it u can’t take Russell land in barroullie to develope the pirate of the Caribbean site? but I have see your trend recently bullying poor people for their lands,,shame on u! We not falling for your manipulative talks u use to justify your actions

  16. This is what we get when we allow these third world post colonialist to assume leadership in the region. A lot of old MNU followers knew his ideals and knew this was coming, the man who always wanted to be a bad john leader.

  17. Elizabeth Thomas says:

    Let me get this straight, if the government wants your land for an airport (Argyle) or for a hotel (Sandals) that’s okay; but if a landowner wants to evict people who aren’t paying their rent the government will step in and side on the part of the tenant. How many years did the people expropriated for the airport own their land. How many years did the people now being expropriated for Sandals own their land. How many children were affected by those expropriations, being put out of their homes. This is not logical thinking and trying to use the good book to justify your actions is just plain wrong.

  18. My deceased mom and her friends are rolling in their graves. Their words were, we don’t want that communist man, because if they have 2 fowls in their yard he will take one and give to another, if they have 2 houses, one will be taken away ,, so sorry Labour party had gave in to join with them on their second attempt

  19. What people have to understand the motives for the PM having a Robin Hood mentality. EK is considered to be a marginal consituency where the the encumbent margin of victory was less than 200 votes. There by taking Murray family the property and dole it out to 11 renters with an average house of at lest five. He would have narrowed the margin of defeat by 55 votes. It is obvious that the PM is indulging in a self serving act . Come on PM history is not on yourside. You have surely live up to your maxis ideology.

  20. Nathan Jolly Green says:

    The man is so cowardly he cannot be described.

    What has happened here is a crime against humanity on the the owners.

    The rents were so low the non-payers deserve to be flogged alongside Gonsalves.

    Sandra you are of course correct in your analysis.

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