Stakeholders will have to compromise in Armenia Land disputes

Last week we told you about land issues which the Village of Armenia has been facing.  Cruz Cal, a local of Armenia, is the Chairman of the Lands Committee which is supported by seven other members. The committee recently identified 2000 acres of land which they have been distributing, but according to Villagers it’s not being carried out in a fair manner. Ernest Banner is the Coordinator of Rural Development and we asked him why the community has a Lands Committee which makes decisions without the consultation of the Village Chairman.
Ernest Banner – Coordinator of Rural Development:
vlcsnap-2013-05-02-20h55m51s215Armenia is unique that there are so many people, so so some much things should be happening, because there are so many people and once they have the interest of the village, so many things should be happening.  In the Village Council Act it states that the Village Council has the privilege of forming a Lots Committee.  However that committee is just to recommend to the Minister of Lands. The Minister of Lands has the final say.  And in his Act he has a part to say that he can set up a  committee to advise him.  So that’s what’s happening there.

This group of eight has been giving out parcels of lands which were previously occupied by local farmers from within the Community. Banner commented on this matter and says that it all boils down to party politics.

Ernest Banner – Coordinator of Rural Development:
vlcsnap-2013-05-02-20h58m35s67You have to recall that Armenia was a squatters community.  People went and squat on private property.  Government is trying to regularize that and acquire the land from the property owners, to distribute out to the people.  So we have to keep that in the background, that it’s a squatters community.  What might have happened is that the Lots Committee is appointed by the Ministry of Natural Resources, not by the Village Council.  So that’s where we are having the conflict.  And even within the village council, the Council is divided.  It’s the Chairman and another person versus five other members.  So the majority will always have its way, and the Council whenever there is a meeting, it ends up in a conflict. So that’s the challenge we are trying to face with. It comes from having party politics within a village, where it divides the people, and people don’t want to work together and they say they have the same cause.

While it’s understandable that Government is trying to regularize the situation, Banner was asked whether the persons of that community should be the ones who have first preference to the parcels of land rather that giving it out to persons who are not of the community.

Ernest Banner – Coordinator of Rural Development:
vlcsnap-2013-05-02-21h00m21s65[The residents of the community] should have preference.  What I want to do, I want to sit with the Lots Committee and the Village Council and find out what’s the situation, and meet with the farmers.  Meet both sides, because there has to be compromises.  So we want to meet both sides and to see how we can iron it [out] the best we can.  That’s what we want to do.
You also have to understand that sometimes you might have your land, because it was squat, you might have your land where a road might go.  You have to understand that as well. We want to find out exactly what is the situation om the ground.

After meeting with the Farmers, Lands Committee and Village Chairman; Banner says that they will make a decision on the situation but he foresees that compromises will have to be made.

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