Caretaker for the main opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC) on Carriacou and Petite Martinique, Tevin Andrews has raised grave concerns over the distribution of state lands on the sister isle.
In an exclusive interview with THE NEW TODAY newspaper on Tuesday night, Andrews raised the spectre of corruption on the part of the ruling New National Party (NNP) in its handling of the issue.
The initiative was the brainchild of the 1984-90 NNP Administration headed by former Prime Minister, the late Herbert Blaize to provide lands to the poor and landless on the island of Carriacou.
The lands are being distributed in places like Bel Air, Belle Vue, Dumphrese and Lauriston.
The current NNP regime of Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell has allegedly made certain changes to the land distribution process.
Andrews is calling for the Chairperson of the newly-constituted Cabinet committee to handle the land distribution, Christine McFarlene to give an account on how some of the names on the list met the criteria as set out.
“…We are basically asking the chairperson to come clean with the necessary information to the public as to why some of these people are receiving lands”, he said.
According to Andrews, there are several persons on the list including a number of prominent individuals who are already landholders and should be excluded.
“Why is the NNP Caretaker down to receive lands and why is there prominent businessmen and women who have properties both home and abroad names down to receive crown lands?
“…There are a number of discrepancies here and I am asking the Chairperson why her name is down to receive lands.
“We’re even asking the Deputy Chairperson why is her name down and there are members of the committee whose spouses or children names are down to receive lands. We are calling upon even the Ministry of Lands and Forestry to clear the air on this issue.”
According to Andrews, there are names that were not on the 2008 list that went before the former Congress administration but are now on the current updated one.
He said: “I am also seeing a Jerry Seales and I am wondering if it is the Jerry Seales that we all know who happens to be a Magistrate; but, in 2008, there was no Jerry Seales.
“I am even seeing the father of Senator Simon Stiell – Mr. Curwen Stiell, who has acres of lands in Carriacou. So, I am very much troubled and concerned about this and the public should be aware.
“…On the old list, there was a Nigel Stuart and on the new list there is no Nigel Stuart and there are a number of persons who were on the old list who are not on the new list.
THE NEW TODAY understands that the Blaize government had set strict criteria for persons to qualify to receive crown lands on the sister isle.
As part of the process to ensure transparency, a system was put in place for eligible persons to dip for lots in a box.
Heading the priority list was civil servants in Carriacou like teachers and police officers, and young poor working residents in the area of construction, and agricultural labourers who cannot afford to purchase lands at market rates.
Andrews noted that when NDC took office in 2008, it realised that the criteria was not being followed and persons who did not need the lands were receiving them under the former Mitchell government.
He pointed to a situation in which up to five members of one family had received state lands.
THE NEW TODAY has seen the copy of a document signed by Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture & Lands, Merina Jessamy, which referred to a Cabinet meeting of June 6, 2017 in which a decision was taken to set up a new committee to be called, the Carriacou Land Settlement Committee.
It named the head of the committee as Christine McFarlene, Lands Officer in the Ministry of Carriacou and Petite Martinique Affairs, Agricultural Division.
Andrews said that the Chairperson of the new committee has a lot of questions to answer because “some of the names that are on that list, anybody should be outrageous”.
He spoke of the old list including the name of Kindra Maturine, the current NNP Caretaker for Carriacou & Petite Martinique whose lot was costing $6000.
“… I heard …Maturine making a statement that yes she applied for the land and then she tell them that she didn’t want the land no more.
If that is the case and she is right, why is her name appearing on the new list and why is it that in 2008, the land that she received then cost some $6000 and today it’s costing some $8000?
“The Lands Officer and the Chairperson of the committee need to answer those questions. So, if it was the old list, the price of the land should have been in the vicinity of $6000, not the $8,000.
The NDC Caretaker charged that the list in question came directly from a member of the Mitchell-led Cabinet of Ministers who is not happy with the distribution process.
Andrews said: “What is hurting the NNP is that they never thought that (we) would have gotten this list as a result of that they are upset because they want to use this (as) an election gimmick to see if they could catch some votes for the elections and this ain’t happening this round.
“What they failed to realise is that there is a new captain, a new chief, a new Sheriff in town and I ain’t making no joke and I am not leaving no stone unturned. You would be surprised to know where some of this information is coming from.
“I can make it clear – it came from within the Cabinet because some of the people that are sitting in Cabinet are not happy with what is happening regarding not just Carriacou but Grenada.
THE NEW TODAY contacted Chairperson McFarlene to get a comment on the land issue now raging in Carriacou but she said that she is unable to answer any questions and would need permission to give out any information.