ENERGY Minister Franklin Khan says the Registration of Titles to Land Bill will help with securing land for the Merikins including in the community of “Dougla City.”
He was contributing to Senate debate on the bill yesterday in Parliament. He said the first registration concept which was being applied to Tobago would also aid the Merikins, descendants of free black veterans of the War of 1812 who settled in the deep South, and singled out those residing in Moruga.
“Most of them know it is their land. They passed it down for generations but none of them have certificates of title.”
He said his favourite place in Moruga was Dougla City in Fifth Company where a mixed marriage produced 12 douglas, and half married Africans and half Indians.
“And they all live in one community. It is about a 20-acre parcel of land. Everybody has their lot and their plot.”
He said Dougla City, “a PNM nest,” personified what life could be in Trinidad “if we behave ourselves.”
Khan said one of the high points of his political career was when late former South African president Nelson Mandela came to Trinidad in August 2004. He recalled then prime minister Patrick Manning asked him to accompany Mandela when he was scheduled to speak at the Centre of Excellence, Macoya.
“So there I was with the great Nelson Mandela, two of us sitting alone in the back seat of a car driven by the army and for half an hour we had a one on one conversation. Few people in the world ever had that privilege.”
Khan recalled asking Mandela, “Why didn’t you go the way of (former Zimbabwe president) Robert Mugabe and seize the lands that were taken away from your people? And his answer to me was, ‘Son you struggle your entire life to help your people but at the end of the day when they get up in the morning, if they do not have a job to go to and their children do not have a school to attend you have done nothing.’”
He said Mandela told him it would take three generations to regularise South Africa “but it is the way I had to go. I couldn’t go the way of Mugabe.”
Khan said people took land very seriously and locally, people were chopped over one foot of “bound” as they say in the country.
“You know how much chopping take place over boundaries? Plenty cutlass pass.”