UNC senator, Acono farmers in fight for St Joseph land
UNC senator David Nakhid, his family and a group of farmers in Maracas/St Joseph have squared off in a battle for several acres of land in the community.
The farmers claim they have been planting on the private lands at Acono Road, St Joseph, for several years while the Nakhid family say they have owned the land for over 150 years and want the farmers off their property.
Byron Sinanan, PRO of the Acono Farmers Association, told Sunday Newsday about 15 families had been planting the land of the Santa Maria and San Joachim Estates in St Joseph undisturbed between 15 and 40 years.
“Within the last three years, before the (2020 general) election, the Nakhids came and started to say the land is theirs.”
He said in 2020 the Nakhids took pictures of their gardens, asked the type and quantity of plants on the land. He claimed they later brought a tractor and destroyed several trees.
“(In 2021) they brought us some documents stating they want us off the land, with no attachment, no deed number, nothing. So, it wasn’t even a proper document.
“We said if it is that it’s their land, we have no problem. So, we went and we do we checks, we have all the documents, all the cadastral sheets, everything, stating that the land has no owner.”
On the map the farmers showed Sunday Newsday, both estates were identified by their respective names, while adjoining land had the names of owners. However, Sunday Newsday could not confirm the validity of the map or how current it was.
UNC senator David Nakhid said, “When I came back from Europe and the Middle East, and I got into politics, we decided to use the land for the family to get into agriculture. So, we told them they would have to vacate the land, we gave them three months' notice and they refused to leave.
“We subsequently issued them an eviction notice from the lawyers, and they thereafter said they were owners of the land.”
When Sunday Newsday contacted him about the incident on March 14, he said his intention was not to confront the farmers. He said he went to visit his brother Colin, who lives near the estate, with his friend Ancil Elcock, a former national footballer.
He said Colin was planting christophene near his home when Elcock noticed three men nearby. David said he “went walking” and the men started to shout at him, telling him not to come onto that piece of land.
David said the Nakhid family was working with lawyers on a possession order to have Sinanan, his cousin Christopher Sinanan, and his uncle Andrew Sinanan, evicted. He also intended to sue them for defamation.
He firmly believed all the Sinanans wanted to do was gain publicity and sympathy and cause him political embarrassment.
Byron claimed the senator “came at us,” trying to intimidate them into leaving the land. He said the farmers felt threatened by his stance and his language.
“We would like to ask the authorities, if somebody with a little influence could act like this, what will happen if they get power? Is it that there’s one rule for the rich and powerful, and a next for the poor and the vulnerable?
“All we ask Mr Nakhid is, if you are claiming you own the estate, bring your documents forward.”
He said they were in within their rights to plant on the land since, when the farmers went to the Office of the Commissioner of State Lands to search for documents, they saw no evidence that the Nakhid family owned the land.
According to Colin, the Nakhid lands were in excess of 70 acres and borders the Ortinola Estate. And they were freehold land owned by his family.
“When I came (to live in Acono in 1996) there were four farmers who never lived on the estate, who were given permission to farm by my aunt, Sheila Nakhid Booker, who was, along with another aunt, the executrix of the estate. She died before 2004.”
Since that time, two of the people she gave permission to plant on the Nakhid land had died. But, with Booker’s death, he said other people from the village started to farm on the land. Those people never approached him for permission.
In 2016, however, he gave some young men from the village permission to plant on some of the land as they were friends with his son. But, in 2021, while he was walking through the estate, he saw someone he did not know. He asked what they were doing there and was told Andrew Sinanan, president of the Acono Farmers' Association, gave them permission to plant on the land.
“From that point I realised there was a plot, a bid, to take over the estate in a hostile manner. I realised they were interested in not only getting my permission to plant but to establish themselves as occupiers.”
He stressed they did not live on the land but had their own homes in the village of Acono. They just used the land for agricultural purposes. He said when he realised what was happening, he issued 15 eviction notices which a police officer and bailiff delivered to the farmers at their respective homes in October, 2021.
“The (Nakhid) estate exists on a deed as well as a will left to my great grandfather. He died in 1908. So, all of the estates are owned by the Nakhids, and not on my name or by brother’s name, but they are in the names of my great grandfather and his wife, Mary.”
He said any official documents would say the land belonged to the “heirs of Nakhid.”
Colin said Andrew and Byron filed complaints against him in mid-2022 accusing him of harassing and threatening them. He claimed he never threatened them, and said after the eviction notices were served, he had cut all communication with them.
Byron claimed the magistrate told Colin he could not evict the farmers without documents supporting ownership and referred the matter to mediation. He said Colin had not bothered the farmers since then.
Colin claimed the magistrate said they should both “cease and desist.” He said the Sinanans withdrew the matter but claimed they later brought a backhoe to the estate and started removing trees. He said that action promoted him to abandon the mediation.
As a result, he and his lawyers were preparing to start High Court proceedings against the Sinanans.
“This thing is a long process. After nearly 150 years you have to establish lineage, deeds, family connections, the orders of the will... It’s taking time and money.”
He added that, two months ago, someone from the office of the Commissioner of State Lands visited his home with ward and cadastral sheets, saying there was a request from the Sinanans for permission to build and own as they believed the lands were state lands. The representative said the matter would be investigated.
Colin hoped the report would corroborate the family’s findings as they may have to request it through a court order to support their case.
“The line of action that will be pursued will be determined by the attorneys.”
Byron said the farmers all applied for farmers' badges from the Ministry of Agriculture and a representative from the Commissioner of State Lands inspected the land. But they could not get the badges immediately because, many years ago, WASA applied to occupy the 14 acres of the Santa Maria Estate.
The water company got about one acre, which was surveyed, and a document read “to be acquired from Santa Maria Estate,” not from “Nakhid.”
He said the Santa Maria Estate was about 14 acres, but the farmers planted on about 30 acres of land. He admitted there were pieces of land around the area with the Nakhid family name on it but not the area where the farmers occupied.
He believed both estates were private estates with no owners which should go back to the state.
“We want to tell Mr Nakhid, we are not doing farming for likes. We are not doing farming for votes. This is not for fame. We are doing this because we love doing it and this is how we make we money.”
The farmers plant sweet pepper, hot pepper, pimento, tomato, string bean, bananas, cassava, plantain, peas, coconut, pumpkin, chives, celery and more on those 30 acres.
"UNC senator, Acono farmers in fight for St Joseph land"