The 170 delegates – 70 from north and 60 from south and 40 from central – from amongst the 223 Comunidades in Goa, unanimously rejected the proposal to legalise illegal constructions and thawed on a decision of giving women a bigger role during the meeting under Art 652 of Code of Comunidades at NIO on Sunday.
The brief – at the end of the five-and-half-hour convention that started at 10 am and finished without a break at 3.25 pm – was clear: the government can assist but cannot decide for the Comunidades.
Delegates deliberated on all 12 points of the agenda and the last one, to deliberate on and recommend policy measures to address illegal constructions and encroachments on Comunidade land and prevent such illegalities in future took the longest.
When moderator Savio Correia asked, “Is there at least one member who thinks illegal construction should be legalised?” the answer was a resounding “No”.
The resolution read: “The meeting was unanimous in its opinion that illegal constructions and encroachments on Comunidade lands cannot and must not be regularized as it would be against public policy and contrary to judgments of the Supreme Court and High Court on the issue.
As part of this issue, the meeting further recommended suitable amendments to the Code of Comunidades for the disposal of complaints of illegal constructions and implementation of orders by Administrators in a time-bound manner.”
The phrase, old habits die hard, flashed through the convention when agenda No 10 came up for discussion and two women – Maria Lina Martins and Sadia Furtado – stood to deliberate on the issue of perceived discrimination against women in eligibility for registration as a “joneiro”.
It was during this deliberation that the otherwise rationally calibrated convention slipped but was salvaged quickly with a majority opting to resolve that “such reforms to the Code of Comunidade be considered after consultation with the respective Comunidades and called for a wider discussion on the issue to correct the inequalities wherever they exist.”
Most of the delegates were well prepared and none appeared to be in a mood to let the government get a toe into the functioning of Comunidades with delegates rejecting on three occasions attempts by Tulio D’Souza to get the members agree that a five-member body be elected to liaise with the government.
“People have been elected on one party ticket and jumped to another. By electing people to represent us, we will be setting another bad precedent,” argued Tome Carvalho who was supported by the remaining components.
Various suggestions were made on how the revenue department could help the functioning of Comunidades and all insisting that any amendment to the Code of the Comunidades will first need to be discussed at the convention.
“The meeting unanimously resolved to call upon the government to make pre-legislative consultation with the Comunidades mandatory before making any amendments to the Code of Comunidades,” read part of the resolution.
Members of north and south Comunidades assured that they would be ready to financially help in restoring their heritage buildings if the government gave them the approval for the same.
“It is for the delegates to decide. I think I gave everyone a chance to have their say,” stated mediator Correia who, with his deft handling, gave none a reason to complain about his role.
“Once the resolutions and the minutes of the meetings are received by the government, it will be for the government to take a call. Our role was to oversee the smooth conduct of the meeting,” stated Revenue Secretary Sandip Jacques, who sat right through the deliberations and interacted with the delegates during a late afternoon lunch.
“Many resolutions that were passed today were passed during the last convention and the government then was similar to now and nothing happened. It needs to be seen what happens now. Will they go into cold storage again?” wondered Venzy Viegas.
As the delegates left NIO, to their respective village communes, the Comunidade in the ICU appeared ready to be removed from the ventilator and waiting for the government stretcher, to move to the ward.