Sounding a strong warning to the more than 500 co-op societies in Guyana, Minister of Labour, Joseph Hamilton has indicated that those co-op societies that have unused lands in their possession will be relieved of those lands, if they keep them unused.
During his budget debate presentation on Monday, Minister Hamilton said there are tens of thousands of acres of lands in the possession of various co-op societies, and those lands remain untouched, at a time when the Government requires more lands for agriculture and other development. He said the issue will have to be addressed.
“We will have to resolve or dissolve, because the nation must be told and informed that cooperative societies in this land of ours, they have in their possession tens of thousands of acres of land, most of it non-productive. Let me repeat. Mr Speaker, cooperative societies, they have in their hands, lands that belong to the State, tens of thousands of acres that are unproductive, most of it, in many instances, are run by some family or some one man who took it over, and is unproductive,” he told the House.
Hamilton said his Ministry is already in discussion with the Guyana Lands and Surveys Commission, the Guyana Forestry Commission and the Mahaica Mahaicony Abary – Agricultural Development Authority (MMA-ADA) to determine what percentages of lands are in the possession of the various co-op societies and the status of the lands.
“We will have to make those lands productive because as we continue to speak about food security and agricultural expansion, we cannot afford, the nation cannot afford that tens of thousands of acres that are in the hands of coop societies, they continue to be unproductive,” he said.
While hinting at the possible repossession of lands and the dissolution of dysfunctional co-op societies, the Labour Minister said the Co-op department is prepared to work along with the societies that are interested in development.
“Those that want to work for development, we will work with them but what we will not continue to have happen, people utilizing the farcical umbrella of coop society when they have government land in their possession, and I have no apology to make. The action, as I said is either they resolve these matters or they will be dissolved,” Minister Hamilton said.
He noted that the integrity audit into the more than 500 co-op societies has been completed, and the Co-op Department will be taking necessary action based on the result of the audit.
The APNU+AFC has lashed out at the Government over its plan to repossess unused or under-utilized lands that belong to Co-op societies. Opposition MP Amanza Walton-Desir said the move maybe targeting a specific group of people in Guyana.