Granny Ghetta I Talk About "Land Capturors"Published Sep 10, 2012
Caribbeans are known throughout the world as being connoisseurs of real estate. Most West Indians toil feverishly for the dream of one day owning their own property. Granny and I talked about many subjects over the years, however the one that seemed most poignant was the subject of "Land Capturors".
No one ever really speaks of this topic, except in the days when there were political uprisings in Jamaica, and the country's economics went awry, it became common knowledge that many homes were captured by "Dreads" and "Rastas" of that era. Some may say, "How is that possible when folks may hold land titles and deeds to properties?"
There was a time in Jamaica's history when citizens migrated and left their luxurious homes and mansions for a better life abroad due to political dissension.Granny and I spoke of this topic primarily because she was familiar with a few people who were victims of their land and property being captured. Granny Gheeta told me stories that began in the early seventies and eighties where families were so discontented with the direction in which the country was going that they opted for better lives abroad. Leaving behind their prized possessions for other Jamaicans to manage.
Granny would emphasize, "As we all know, it is best to handle your business for yourself, because when the spirit of the devil reaches people, some, lose all sense of decorum."
Granny explained that many Jamaicans entrusted their properties to Landlords to collect rents for them or sublet their homes out to respectable folks, however these individuals "dropped the ball" on their duties, thus allowing the properties to waste away, turning into forsaken territory.
It was then, that Jamaicans who felt disadvantaged sought refuge in the homes that they thought were forsaken. Other Jamaicans who were Land and Property owners, returned to Jamaica to find their properties unfairly defiled by the caretakers.
Granny told a me a story about her friend Mr. Gudrasingh who owned several properties in Jamaica, primarily in Kingston. He left the country for several months to conduct business in India and when he returned, a four bedroom home was turned into a thirty bedroom hotel.
Each room was sectioned off and turned into separate dwellings for families. There was laundry hanging in the living room, the three car garage had been turned into a studio apartment and people were washing clothes in his architecturally designed swimming pool. "Mr. Gudrasingh was mortified," Granny exclaimed. He ran from there shrieking as if he had seen a horror movie.
Every property he owned, were turned into tenement yards. The whole situation was unbelievable.
Granny told me that the individuals Mr. Gudrasingh had left in charge of his properties had sought to make fortunes of their own by creating several apartments within one house and renting the apartments to many people, collecting the rents and only giving a select amount to the property owner. As far as Granny was concerned, it was easy money for the Landlords and the owners weren't any wiser, unless they took a vested interest by visiting Jamaica on a regular basis.
Even at a young age, it seemed unfathomable to me that someone could capture another person's property, when they possessed papers to show ownership. But Granny clarified the matter for me, She said, "When people left Jamaica and entrusted their Real Estate to others, they assumed that their taxes would be paid with the rents they collected, etc. However, the vermits who were left in charge pocketed the monies, neglected the upkeep of the properties and the taxes were not paid. In the caribbean when these things happen, it becomes a free for all."
Therefore, possessions that Jamaicans worked hard for all there lives suddenly became subject to scrutiny or became in jeopardy.
Owners found themselves fighting for their own properties that took them blood, sweat and tears to build or cultivate.
Granny smirked, "You know Magli, the old saying, Finders, Keepers, Losers, Weepers? That was very prevalent back in the old days.
Nowadays, people have to educate themselves on the property laws and tax laws of our times in order to outsmart the caretakers that they have managing their Real Estate."
Granny shook her head, "Poor Mr. Gudrasingh was never the same again. Imagine, the man owned about twelve different properties, and all of them was turned into almshouse. The devil of a Landlord pocketed every red cent and no one could find him. But you know, Indian blood is something else. Me and the rest of the old timers gather up and march down to the Property and Tax office and demand for them to hold the crab louse of a landlord accountable.
Within a few days, they were able to recover some of Mr. Gudrasingh's money, but he was a Businesman and he never felt comfortable investing in property in Jamaica after that episode."
I found those developments to be irreprehensible, how could anyone just take charge of someonelse's property, making profits, and the Government looks the other way?
Granny would remark, "That just goes to show that corruption has been around from the year of naught in Jamaica. The only thing that has changed, is that folks are learning to outsmart the foxes or wolves in sheep clothing. Can you imagine, returning home to Jamaica and having to pay rent for your own house that you toiled for? That is a travesty!"
Granny went into a mini-sermon, "Land Ownership is a joy and privilege and when people try to take that away from you, they are seeking to take away your independence, pride and dignity!"
Granny got very serious and turned several shades of scarlet red, "No one is coming on my property and capturing it, before that happens I will climb up on the tractor in the openland and bulldoze it to the level of my precious shrubs!"
"Nowadays, people just want to acquire without the hard work. They envy you for what you have, yet, they don't know the sacrifices that were made to get people who seem to "have" to the point where they are in life."
This was a subject that Granny obviously felt very strongly about, and I had a feeling that many Jamaicans were just as passionate about Land Ownership as she was.
As a young girl growing up in Jamaica, I became aware of the importance of having your own forty acres and a mule from an early age because, it was displayed in the pride of the most humble Jamaicans. The Peddlar on the street felt joy and pride when speaking about his/her thatched roofed or zinc roof home. Even if it was humble, as we say in Jamaica, "A fi dem wun!" So, that alone brings joy and piece of mind.
Granny concluded our conversation by saying, "A wise person once told me, what takes you a lifetime to build, others will seek to destroy it in a few seconds, so always try to stay a step ahead of the covetous individuals."
I thought these words of wisdom were very profound, so I became curious, questioning the identity of the wise person....
"Was it Mahatma Ghandi Granny?"
All I received was a coy smile.....But with My Granny Gheeta, a woman of International surprises, you just never really knew.