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Story by Elesha George 

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A meeting with Old Road villagers on Wednesday night ended in a commitment by the Ministry of Agriculture to bring their case before the Cabinet.

The villagers are insisting that agricultural lands in the area belong to the people who live there and are refusing to allow the occupation of seven acres of those lands to a couple they consider to be outsiders. 

Protestors say they want the seven acres to be used for community farming.

During the meeting at Morris Bay, which lasted for over an hour, Senior Extension Officer Olawabi Elabanjo asked the villagers to furnish him with a 2001 agreement which states that no expats can lay claim to land in Trementanian and Claremont in Old Road. 

Observer obtained a copy of the agreement which was signed on April 18 2001, when villagers fought against the acquisition of land to construct the Carlisle Bay Resort. 

“It was also agreed that there will be no displacement of any of the residents of Old Road and that all farm lands currently under cultivation by farmers of Old Road remain in their possession,” a joint communique between Cabinet and a delegation representing the Old Road community stated. 

The villagers will also have to submit a petition which was signed by residents in that community who did not wish for lands to be developed by people outside of Old Road. 

The woman who applied for the land to plant coconuts is said to have been born and raised in Antigua. 

As early as Sunday, her husband had been tending to the land. Video footage shows him, with police, speaking with farmers in the area who were preventing work from being done on the property. 

According to Elabanjo, “she applied for the land and was given the land probably around 2018, but due to the problem that they have been facing in terms of ‘we don’t want you; we don’t need you around here’, they couldn’t do anything”.

He further disclosed that a tenancy agreement had been signed in March 2021 which allows the couple up to six months to begin cultivating the land. Otherwise, the land will be reallocated to someone else but not under the condition of duress, the senior officer noted. 

However, the main speaker at the meeting, Jameson “Kublai” Mannix, argued that even if the woman was born in Antigua, it will not be an excuse for her to claim lands in the area. 

“She is the descendant of an expatriate and that is the way they are going to get this place back. They want our property, they want to take back the lands and we are not about to give them that at all,” he remarked.

Mannix believes that the Ministry of Agriculture went behind locals’ backs, knowing that there was a dispute and that they were opposed to the land being occupied by someone else.

In response, Elabanjo, who said he only learnt of the issue on Saturday, voiced that there was no documentation in his file that a protest had ever taken place on the matter. 

Disgruntled villagers also took umbrage with how seemingly easy it is for ‘outsiders’ to be given lands to occupy while they, for years, have been denied the same opportunity to cultivate these very lands. 

Elabanjo said if the documents are submitted within the next 48 hours, he will attempt to bring it before Cabinet. In the meantime, he gave an undertaking that work on the land would stop and that he would get different lands for the couple to cultivate their coconuts.

Observer media reached out to the woman in question who declined to comment.