Crumbs, Mr. Carty, Crumbs

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The recent decision by Mr. Nigel Carty, Minister of Lands in the St. Kitts administration, to make 500 acres of ex-sugar lands to 5000 young people falls far short of reasonable expectations.

According to the report, the minister has earmarked 500 acres of land to young teachers, policemen, nurses, etc. who do not yet possess a house of their own. Each young person will be able to buy 4000 square feet of land at a subsidized price. The report further states that if the young person feels that he/she wants more land than 4000 square feet they would have to buy the rest at present market prices.

Now, I am not a young person so I won’t be in the waiting line for any of the land on which my ancestors have toiled for 400 years. Yet I feel a sense of betrayal in the offer.

Could anyone imagine that for hundreds of years our black people have toiled on the sugar lands, have kept the sugar industry going, pinned to it like slaves, keeping it afloat with the labour of our hands, hoping waiting for the great day to see what will be left for us as the legacy of the sugar industry. Imagine that the sugar industry has died and the sugar lands stand idle and all that Mr. Carty can offer our young people is to sell them a mere 4000 square feet of land.

Count the people! 5000 young people are expected to settle on this speck of land.

In the context of the abundance of land which now lies idle since the last sugar crop two years ago, 4000 square feet, even as a gift, is an insult to our present young generation.

Out of the thousands of acres of land released from sugar cane; out of all those cane fields which line the country road and extend to the mountain slopes; for 5000 young teachers, policemen and nurses only 500 acres!

I take issue with Mr. Carty for one simple reason. He was born and raised at Harris Village where he was exposed to the social value of land.

For more that 60 years, the people of Harris, like the people of Saddlers close by and Newton Ground, have enjoyed the privilege of being land setters. At the proposal of the early pioneers of the Labour movement, and at the behest of the colonial government, Fahies, Harris and Saddler Estates were converted to land settlements on which the villagers were allowed to possess 3-acre plots of land. They were earmarked to becoming self employed farmers, producing food for the local market.

Over the years some brilliant cases of land development have emerged from these land settlers. Many of them paid for their project houses from the income earned from these small plots of land; some built their own houses.

The regimen of toil on land which they controlled has produced special people in these parts of the countryside and Nigel Carty would know that. The young people of his day including himself worked so well on the land that they grew up with a special character. And although the 3-acre plot was not exactly their own, the possession of it gave the families a certain taste of pride.

Mr. Carty should know that one of the factors which conditions a Kittitian’s character is the size of his/her house and land. I don’t think the Kittitian is any different in this regard from a Nevisian or Anguillan or any other Caribbean national.

One’s house and land is what distinguishes one, so the minister of land is by his fiat confining our 5000 of our young people to a future of inferiority on a tiny piece of land.

5000 pinches of land put with the many low income houses which flourish in the town and country will not only confine the majority of our next generation to a clearly distinguishable place in our society, it will perpetrate the culture of class for which St. Kitts is famous.

Mr. Carty has stressed that these 500 acres will be restricted to those below the poverty line.

It would be interesting to hear from Mr. Carty exactly who will receive the rest of the land, the thousands of acres that he implies will be available for the people above the poverty line.

Will they be Kittitians like Herchelle Gibbs who received naturalization by making runs for Australia? If he wants some of the sugar lands, how many acres will be he allowed to buy? Not square feet, mind you, acres, or will they be strangers from Europe, the United States, New Zealand, Australia who could afford to buy their citizenship for US$250,000.00?

So how will the future St. Kitts look with all the foreign white people and the local black big-shots located in the exclusive areas in monstrous houses, palaces, while thousands of the local people, all black of course, will live in small houses on tiny pieces of land?

I am amazed also at Mr. Carty’s glib use of the term below the poverty line. In case he does not know it, when the party to which he belongs was founded 75 years ago, the mandate was to eradicate poverty and ignorance from the island.

Inspired by the pioneers who led the Labour Party, every Kittitian aspired to prosperity and now Mr. Carty is talking about below the poverty line. Why does poverty still exist in St. Kitts after 75 years of struggle against this villain?

If Mr. Carty needs a model of how to distribute land to dispossessed people, he should take a trip to Nevis and talk to former Premier Simeon Daniel. When Daniel took office as the leader of the Nevis people, one of his first measures was to visit the people who lived on government land and offer to sell them land by the acre and half acre.

And not for any exorbitant piece which only Americans could afford. He actually let them suggest the price at which they would buy the land and it was the lowest possible price way out of sync with prevailing market prices.

Mr. Daniel’s generosity in the distribution of land to his people sparked off a wave of activity and excitement as Nevisians at Fothergills and other villages became proud possessors of the land on which they and their forefathers had toiled.

Compared to the experience of the proud Nevis people, the young people of St. Kitts are offered crumbs, crumbs that fall from the table of the better off.

Of course there will a line of young people up for the pittance of land offered to them by those in power. They will line up as beggars do because they can’t do better.

I sincerely urge the authorities to come better than that are offer the young people of St. Kitts more land. Even 8000 square feet.

They would be able to build nice houses with three or four bedrooms. They would take their time and help themselves and build houses which will distinguish them not as people below the poverty line but as young people on the way to progress and prosperity.

These people need enough land to plant a kitchen garden on their premises. Mr. Bradshaw used to urge Kittitians to plant kitchen gardens on their property to reduce the cost of living and to keep poverty at bay.

Mr. Carty should base his treatment of his fellow young people on his own experience growing up. Free secondary education raised him up placed him in authority, put him in a position where he can aspire to more than 4000square feet of land. Mr. Carty should make his own aspirations that of the people’s and should use his authority to give his fellow young people a lasting reason to be proud of themselves and of their heritage

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