Sun | May 28, 2017

Idle lands to willing hands ... Marcus Garvey party wants property distribution

Published:Monday | September 21, 2015 | 9:00 AMDaraine Luton
Horace Matthews, chairman of the Marcus Garvey People's Political Party

A Marcus Garvey People's Political Party (MGPPP) government would use the laws of adverse possession to take hold of private lands and distribute to landless Jamaicans for developmental purposes.

Horace Matthews, chairman of the MGPPP, said access to land is critical to the country's advancement and that arable lands should be brought into production.

"We want to marry idle land to willing hands because a lot of farmers are willing to farm but they don't have lands. And we have these big conglomerates that have so much land they can't even manage, and a lot of it is left idle," said Matthews.

Named after national hero Marcus Garvey, MGPPP has adopted the manifesto of the People's Political Party (PPP), Jamaica's first, modern political party, which was formed in September 1929 by Garvey.

The PPP's manifesto focused on issues such as an eight-hour workday, minimum wage, legal aid department for the poor, land reform, libraries and civic improvement for parish capitals.

Matthews told The Gleaner that land reform would include both state-owned lands and the taking away of some private lands for redistribution.

"We don't want to use the harsh terminology of 'taking away' because it might sound communist. But just as how there is a law which allows the state to acquire properties if they want to cut a road, we will go in to the people and say, 'You have 1,000 acres of land and you are only utilising 50 acres and we have farmers out there' ...," Matthews said.

He continued: "We would negotiate, show them the urgency, and if they can't prove that they have a substantial plan in place to utilise the land, then the State would take possession and give it to farmers to work the lands, and then they will be compensated."

ELECTION PROMISE

The MGPPP chairman said that his party will be running for parliamentary seats, with land reform as its major campaign vehicle.

Matthews said a MGPPP administration would focus heavily on the promotion of nutraceuticals, while at the same time build micro dams to irrigate farmlands, and promote the cultivation of high-demand crops such as coffee, cocoa and ginger.

In its last political outing in 2011, the party fielded 10 candidates and got a total of 420 votes. Matthews, who ran in South East St Andrew, got 28 votes. The party's president, Leon Burrell, received 61 of the 15,014 votes cast in South East St Catherine.

Matthews said that the party has so far identified 31 potential candidates for the next general election.

"We are hopeful that if we can bring a full slate of 63 candidates the people will take us seriously," stated Matthews, who said both he and Burrell have a very good chance of making it to Parliament.

Matthews shared that the party is now reaching out to grass-roots Jamaicans, such as the Maroons, to help propel the movement to victory. He said, however, that the party is facing an uphill task in its quest to raise funds to prepare for the next general election.

ASSISTANCE

"We have been talking to people in the diaspora to assist. We have approached businesses in Jamaica and they have basically side stepped us, so I know we can't get anything there," Matthews said.

The MGPPP is now depending on sales from the Philosophy and Opinions of Marcus Garvey, which has just been reprinted and is being sold for $2,000 per copy, $250 of which will go the party.

The limit of $3 million for expenditure by candidates in any parliamentary election that was set in 1997 was increased to $10 million ahead of the 2011 elections. Matthews said that raising $2.5 million per candidate would put the MGPPP in good stead to mount a formidable campaign.

The chairman said he spent approximately $1 million in the last election, which saw him getting 28 votes.

He said that the party is hoping that Parliament will pass laws to allow for campaign-finance reform which would allow for parliamentary hopefuls to receive state funding.

The Electoral Commission of Jamaica has proposed that state funding should be provided, among other things, to political parties and candidates who poll at least five per cent in the election. This, however, would rule out the MGPPP, which got 0.05 per cent of the votes in the 2011 general election.