Former Prime Minister Sir James Mitchell. (iWN file photo)

Former Prime Minister Sir James Mitchell has spoken out against the government’s compulsory acquisition of part of the Mc Lean estate in Richmond Hill.

The Ralph Gonsalves Unity Labour Party (ULP) government has moved to acquire the lands which had been in the family of Simone Murray for 100 years.

The government’s decision came after Murray’s family moved, earlier this year, to enforce 5-year-old court orders for tenants to vacate the lands which had been rented to them.

The government acquired the land without having any conversation with the family to try to understand the situation.

Murray told iWitness News that with the acquisition, she felt as if she was living in a communist country.

Speaking on Boom FM on Tuesday, Sir James spoke out against the manner in which the Ralph Gonsalves Unity Labour Party administration went about the acquisition.

He contrasted it to how he said his New Democratic Party administration went about land acquisition.    

“Good God! We acquired land all over this place. We acquired, Orange Hill, we acquired Lauders, we acquired Diamond, we acquired Mt Wynne and Peter’s Hope, we acquired land for the community college. All of that was done with proper negotiations. And we acquired the Tobago Cays,” said Sir James, who was prime minister from 1984 to 2000.

“First of all, when you’re going to acquire land, the courteous thing to do is to write to the people to say I would like your particular land for a certain purpose, etc. and you get that point across,” the retired politician said.

He said that the landowner could then say they don’t want to sell or they might agree and suggest a price.

“And you explore all possibilities of persuasion and getting things done before you use the hammer that you have behind,” he said, referring to compulsory acquisition.

Sir James also spoke about the manner in which the ULP administration acquired the property of former NDP Minister Marcus DeFreitas.
Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves announced in July that DeFreitas will be paid — 16 years after acquiring his property and 14 years after a tribunal ordered the pay-out.

“… you are going about your business just suddenly, you wake up, you get a notice that your land has been acquired. That is in poor taste and that kind of thing undermines confidence in investment in our country.

“They can do a poll on that too. Do a poll on confidence and what are the factors affecting confidence. Do a poll, whether the leadership of the ULP now inspires confidence.

“I would say to Ralph you know, as a good friend, we chat and we respect each other. He has got to admit that the shine has come off of the ball. Where are the new ideas in ULP?” Sir James said.

He spoke to the ULP’s campaign slogan, “Lift SVG Higher”.

“They’re going lift you higher? Lift you higher from where?  Lift you out of the mud that we have dumped? You need a good front-end loader to get you out of this hole…

“Ralph has become complacent,” Sir James said.

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