IT was a ‘dream come through’ for 35 Region 10 (Upper Demerara-Upper Berbice) residents who received their land titles from the National Industrial and Commercial Investments Limited (NICIL), on Friday.
According to a press statement from NICIL, the recipients, who are mainly from the Coomacka area, expressed satisfaction after receiving their land titles at the Watooka Guest House. The residents all paid $33,000 each for their land.
Among those present at the handing over ceremony were Mayor of Linden, Waneka Arrindell; Former A Partnership for National Unity and Alliance For Change (APNU+AFC) Member of Parliament (MP), Jermaine Figueira and officials of NICIL.
Figueira congratulated the residents on becoming landowners and congratulated NICIL on the gesture, noting that NICIL and its team saw it equally important that President David Granger’s promise of a good life is achieved by all Guyanese.
He said, one component of the good life is land ownership, and residents of Coomacka, for decades, have been waiting tirelessly and impatiently for the titles to the properties that they were occupying for up to 40 years.
“We know the wait was very long and you had endured a lot and many of you wanted to use the ownership of the land to access a loan to create increased development where you are and we are very happy that NICIL would have embarked on a regularisation programme within Region 10,” said Figueira, adding that so far 900 residents have been regularised and a number of them have received their land titles.
The recent distribution of land titles was a continuation or the regularisation programme which has been ongoing across Region 10, especially in the Mining Town of Linden. According to Figueira, persons in Block 22 and Amelia’s Ward have also felt the benefits of the programme.
Although NICIL was credited for the programme, the former MP said the initiative started after Mayor Arrindell had approached NICIL to regularise several residents who were living in the West Watooka Hill area. Regularisation will soon start in the Wisroc area.
“We are very proud of the work being done by NICL in a number of these areas, so I would like to extend sincere thanks to Mr. Heath-London for his leadership and significant assistance from him and his team for the assistance given, as today another set of residents will be beneficiaries of ownership of land,” he declared.
Figueira said he is confident that, like him and other residents, the mayor is also pleased with the enormous work that has been done within Linden and the rest of Region 10 by NICIL.
He reminded the landowners of the numerous contributions that NICIL has made to the region over the past few years, declaring that NICIL had brought significant and continuous development for both residents and visitors to Region 10.
Arrindell, in her remarks, also congratulated the landowners, urging them to preserve their land, while contributing in their own way to the continued development of the region. She said her council is very grateful for the work that NICIL has and continues to do within her township.
“I am very grateful and thankful for the collaboration and I think that is one of the greatest things that NICIL and the municipality have been able to achieve. I am happy to be part of Coomacka as Coomacka is part of my heart.”
“With the land titles that you received today, you can now go to the banks and develop those lands that you have received and this is the kind of development that we want in this region. So congratulations and please return to your communities so that you can continue to develop your communities,” Arrindell said.
NICIL’s Properties Officer, Tyrone Peters, congratulated the residents and urged them to take excellent care of their land. He reminded all in attendance that this is yet another exercise that NICIL will be continuing. The agency, he said, is committed and dedicated to ensuring that residents can benefit from the lands that are available.
He reassured them that NICIL’s Acting Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Colvin Heath-London, is committed and dedicated to ensuring that more residents can benefit from land. The recipients expressed sincere thanks to NICIL, stressing that the government agency, with the relevant support from the Government of Guyana, have certainly granted them the desire of their hearts, which is to own a plot of land.
MONTHS after its massive upgrade, management is mulling expansion of the Watooka Guest House to meet the demands of a growing clientele.
Since its recommissioning, the facility has been experiencing a 100% occupancy rate and was forced to turn down potential guests during these periods.
Manager Rawle Dundas, said that serious consideration is being given to expansion to meet demand. Presently, the facility is having expansion effected to its riverside deck, which has been one of its well-received additions. “Based on the response we have gotten so far, we are already thinking about expanding, because we had a young lawyer from Georgetown who wanted to stay in Linden….we didn’t have space and she was not the only one,” Dundas said.
With Linden making tremendous strides in its tourism sector, Dundas posited that the guest house sees itself as being a major player in the future. “We see ourselves as the facilitators of the activation; we see ourselves as being able to afford opportunities to our young people, whether it be people who have craft or agricultural products available because we would want to use local things at ‘Watooka’,” he added.
The manager affirmed that “Watooka” is open to all and sundry and everyone can have a share, whether it is to earn, accommodation, dining, or touring the facility.
The Watooka Guest House is one of the oldest colonial buildings in Linden that served as a restaurant and guest house in the early 1900s. The massive upgrade included refurbishing of 13 suites, including the Presidential and Prime Ministerial Suites; purchasing of modern equipment, appliances and other amenities; expansion of sections of restaurants, such as the bar, installations of air-conditioning units, lights, WIFI system and cable TV; a complete kitchen makeover, landscaping and general maintenance of the lawns. The entire compound, which also boasts a pool, a decorative lawn and garden, has been extensively improved. The roof, windows, pool, fence and gate, among other things, were also modernised.
In addition to the new deck, other added amenities include a fully furnished annexe that comes with all modern amenities. This is located opposite the guest house. In an effort to boost its hospitality service, a plethora of new services are also now available. These include collaborating with tour agencies to ensure guests enjoy a full experience of Linden, a private lounge, a membership scheme, security escorts and transportation services, as well as catering for private, small and large events, among other things.
Opposite “Watooka” is a centennial park which features the old railway station with locomotive as walking draglines that were used in the earlier days of bauxite mining. These were also spruced up as part of the upgrading project.
The regularisation of lands as an asset for business transactions was one of the front-burner issues addressed in-depth when members of the Linden Chamber of Industry, Commerce and Development [LCICD] met recently with Head of the National Industrial and Commercial and Investments Limited [NICIL], Mr. Colvin Heath-London.
(NICIL’s Colvin Heath-London making a presentation during his recent visit to Linden)
The members of the Chamber are elated about this development. This was intimated by the Chamber’s President, Mr. Victor Fernandes, who called the recent collaboration “a golden opportunity for the holistic development of Linden”.
Fernandes revealed that he and the entire Chamber are still reeling with excitement from the outcome of the meeting, adding that the clarification of a number of issues which were addressed have now paved the way for forward movement.
“The Chamber is very pleased to have met with NICIL and more in particular, Mr Heath-London. We are heartened by the several excellent responses from our membership about the discussion that we have had, as many felt that it was not only useful but beneficial to both sides,” he asserted.
The Chamber President went on to note that the recent meeting helped members to have a refreshed understanding of NICIL and its role in the continued development of Linden.
“We had candid conversations on several issues of concerns of perceived notion which we are confident will result in a strengthened and more purposeful relationship,” said Fernandes.
“Mr Heath-London outlined NICIL’s role and plans for our community that would be of significant benefit to all,” he added, pointing out that the facilitation for space for investors for business development was another key issue that was addressed.
“NICIL took the lead in enhancing our tourism product by refurbishing our heritage site Watooka House adding to its attraction deck on the river front. This certainly demonstrates genuine interest in forging collaboration and aiding in the continued developmental and enhancement of Linden as a destination town,” the Chamber President shared.
As he turned his attention to the Guyana Initiative Against Climate Change [GIACC], Fernandes said that the Chamber remains united and committed to supporting a number of potential investors of a solar farm and engineering operation.
“It is also in keeping with President [David] Granger’s initiative…However we would like consideration to be given to the environmental concerns for our waterways and the Blue Lake of north-east Kara Kara which has become the identity of Linden, far and wide,” the Chamber head noted.
Fernandes, moreover, made it clear that the Lake must be preserved for the people of the Linden community, stressing that any lease agreement should be “minus this facility and its access”.
“The Chamber was reliably informed of NICIL’s willingness to consider suitable locations and would like to encourage fruitful dialogue on a location that is very suitable,” Fernandes stated. He underscored that as a primary stakeholder, the Chamber is of the view that NICIL’s role is of utmost importance to the development of the community.
“We stand in support of NICIL and the initiatives that we have agreed on collectively and collaboratively as we are of the firm view that moving ahead with the development of Linden is a role that can see participation from various stakeholders,” he said.
Even as he considered that “NICIL owns a significant portion of lands and properties around,” Fernandes said, “I am very encouraged by the continued efforts of its Head to make things happen and this is the level of spirit and interest that we need to see if holistic development of communities like Linden are going to be achieved.”
In reaffirming the Chamber’s commitment and support to the initiatives and collaboration that have been mooted by NICIL, Fernandes said, “We stand ready with a number of investors who have already expressed interest in investing further in Linden.”
As such, he made a passionate appeal to investors to recognise that Linden has the potential which will result in significant growth and development in another five years or so.
Fernandes said that the Chamber, through its various connections, will reach out and lend any support and/or assistance to investors who are genuinely interested in playing meaningful roles in helping to materialise the plans of making Linden a destination town.
“The Chamber will continue to lend its support to investment that would bring economic and social development to Linden,” Fernandes added.
Watooka House on Thursday reopened its doors to the public after several months of extensive rehabilitation and upgrades costing some $50 million.
According to a Department of Public Information (DPI) report, the Watooka Complex, which has been in existence since the commencement of bauxite mining in Linden, is located in the small community of Watooka, on the Mackenzie shore of the Demerara River.
Today, the complex is a renowned tourist hotspot in the mining town and has hosted dignitaries from all over the world.
The colonial-style complex boasts a guest house, a newly refurbished swimming pool, manicured lawns, a basketball court, a tennis court and a new deck overseeing the Demerara River. Also included in the upgrades was an overhaul of the establishment’s suites and kitchen, extension of the restaurant and the installation of a Wi-Fi system.
In attendance at the ribbon-cutting ceremony and grand reopening were Minster of Business, Haimraj Rajkumar; Minister within the Ministry of Communities Annette Ferguson; Minister within the Ministry of Agriculture with responsibility for Rural Affairs Valerie Adams-Yearwood; and Linden Mayor, Waneka Arindell.
As the minister responsible for the tourism industry in Guyana, Rajkumar mentioned some of the history that surrounds the landmark complex. The guest house was built in the 1940s and served as a club for the expatriates who were employed with the Demerara Bauxite Company and the colonial building was later transformed into a guest house.
The Business Minister also noted the Watooka House’s capacity for growth and tourism and the pivotal role the newly refurbished complex will play in Linden’s development.
Mayor Arindell, in her remarks, said that the township of Linden was grateful for the upgrades the complex has seen as it will help to transform Linden. “Linden is now in the right place [to see] magnificent changes being made.” She added that Watooka House is an integral part of Linden history and its story must be told.
Watooka House hosts guest, birthdays, weddings, parties and is a famous recreational spot for both Lindeners and out-of-region visitors, the report added.
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