Clency Harmon ready to begin third hunger strike

Clency Harmon was 27 years old when he learned, through an acquaintance, that the land belonging to his great-grandfather, the existence of which he was previously unaware of, had been despoiled. After checking, he realized, thanks to his mother, that the family owned land occupied, without their knowledge, by a company since 1987.

Now 64 years old, he is trying by all means to recover the family property or, at least, to obtain compensation for the illegal occupation of this land. However, administrative burdens delay the process. However, he hopes to obtain justice before his death. Initially, he formed an association with several people who had lost their land. But the procedures are taking a long time. It is in this context that the Justice and Truth Commission (CJV) is established. More than a decade later, things still do not seem to be moving forward according to the CJV's recommendations or are taking too long to get implemented. “I have had a case before the court since 2007 which has not yet been dealt with on the merits,” laments Clency Harmon. He says a fast track was requested to speed things up, but everything still seems to be at a standstill, he believes.

“I was 27 when I started my research, and it took me four years to discover that the family land had been 'stolen'. Today, I am 64 and still nothing,” he regrets. He claims to have all the title deeds to the land that a company claims is his. Since then, a legal battle has started, but is struggling to succeed.

It was the bitterness of a fight that did not seem to be succeeding that led him to begin a first hunger strike in 2019, when government promises were not kept. He also made a second one. Discussing his two hunger strikes, Clency Harmon maintains that it was not easy, especially the first three days of his strike in 2019. However, he held on for 16 days and ended his movement when the authorities claimed that They were going to unblock the situation with the creation of a Law Reform Commission.

But he notes that things have not evolved in the expected direction. A year later, Clency Harmon began a new hunger strike which lasted ten days. At the current pace of events, he says he is ready to start a new strike, if necessary, because over the years, he gets older and wonders if he will be able to enjoy his land before closing his eyes for good. “No matter the deadline, I will start a third hunger strike if things do not succeed,” he says.

Danielle Tancrel: “Justice delayed is justice denied”

The story of the Tancrel family's land dispossession is complex, like that of many others. It concerns land located on a sugar property in the east of the country. According to the file presented to the courts, the family owns land near Camp-de-Masque. After investigation and supporting documents, the family discovered that one of their ancestors, who had children with a slave during the era of slavery, was robbed of the land that was his. Thus, this complex situation represents a typical case of dispossession by a sugar estate of land belonging to a French settler who had children with a slave.

In his report, a surveyor states that a portion of the land, part of the family's initial lot, appears neither in the sugar company's mortgage register nor in its title deeds. Furthermore, this portion of land has not been subject to any transfer of ownership to date. He therefore concluded that the plan of the Tancrel concession corresponds to the LAVIMS map of the Ministry of Housing and Lands.

Danielle Tancrel recalls that Volume 2 of the CJV is entirely devoted to the dispossession of land from descendants of slaves and indentured workers. One of the commission's recommendations was the creation of a Specialized Tribunal, a land tribunal intended to redress history, she points out. It was only after years of struggle that a Land Division was voted on August 28, 2020 and finally implemented on May 10, 2023, she laments.

However, despite its creation, CJV depositors have today lost confidence in this institution, believes Danielle Tancrel. “Land grabbers take advantage of gaps in legal procedures to escape justice,” she says. She appeals to the judges of the Land Division, the chief judge, the government and the Prime Minister so that this court, recommendation of the CJV, is effective.

She notes that many CJV applicants have fallen ill or died after desperately waiting for justice. With the appointment of a Project Manager to the Land Research and Monitoring Unit, however, there is hope. However, it is expected that more cases of dispossession of CJV land will be brought before the court.

So far, no one has received compensation, according to her. “Justice delayed is justice denied,” reaffirms Danielle Tancrel.

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