NEW AMSTERDAM, BERBICE – Registrar of Lands Juliet Sattaur said it is her ‘no nonsense’ approach that has caused some lawyers in Berbice to call for her removal from the Land Registry in Berbice.
She posited that she cannot overlook the law, must work according to it and would not step off the straight and narrow. Ms. Sattaur said she came all the way through the system starting from the bottom as a clerk, worked her way to the position she now holds and was not politically placed, “I have been in this system for years.”
These remarks came in the wake of complaints made by a battery of lawyers in Berbice. The Attorneys are alleging that the Registrar of Lands Juliet Sattaur and her Registry Officer Michael Seepersaud have created a series of problems in the Land Registry and are bent on frustrating them and their clients. According to them, this situation has been in existence for more than two years despite their complaints.
The lawyers, who asked not to be identified, said that if the relevant authorities do not heed their cry, they, along with their clients would continue to suffer injustice.
Ms. Sattaur is based in Georgetown and must visit Berbice once weekly while her registry officer is permanently stationed in Berbice.
According to the lawyers, her visits to Berbice are never announced beforehand, “If you want to meet her she refuses to meet with lawyers.”
Ms. Sattaur acknowledged that her visits to Berbice are indeed without warning. She explained that she has been receiving death threats for some time now and the course of action is in the best interest of her security. According to her, even staff members at the Office in Georgetown would not know her every move. This decision was reportedly conveyed to the lawyers in Berbice at a meeting in April 2008.
The Registrar of Lands claimed that none of the lawyers made any requests to meet with her and even if they could not have seen her in person at a particular time, there is always other means of communication, “So that is an absolute lie!”
Ms. Sattaur said she last visited New Amsterdam on Tuesday, and at some point during that period, one of the lawyers spoke to her. According Ms. Sattaur, during the time of her visits -— 08:15 to midday—-the lawyers are usually in court hence they cannot meet with her.
Ms. Sattaur further indicated that during her visits to Berbice, she occupies a desk in open view and not in a secluded office.
Another grievance listed by the lawyers is the delay in the issuance of certificates of title and mortgage. They complained that this process takes months when it should take only a few weeks. According to the spokespersons, some of the delays are a direct result of incompetence. One such is in the case of a query, that application is put off for a further three weeks before it could get the attention of the official.
The attorneys are also claiming that the Registry Officer in Berbice, Michael Seepersaud, is unsupervised and answers to no one in the absence of the Georgetown based official. The attorneys said documents that were filed to enable the passing of the certificate of title, were misplaced on several occasions. The applicants are then forced to get new certified copies at their own expense and this as well delays the matter.
Ms. Sattaur indicated when matters are filed in Berbice, the Registry Officer, Michael Seepersaud, checks to ensure that all the documents are as they should be. In the event of a query, that file is placed in chronological order based on the date of submission. The length of the process depends on the lawyers and their response time.
Sattaur added that she made a request for an assistant for her Registry Officer in Berbice. According to her, the assistant does the same work that her ten staff members in Georgetown are doing. He is also due for leave but as a result of the personnel shortage he cannot get all the days he requested. According to the lawyers, the Guyana Association of Legal Practitioners met with Ms. Sattaur to resolve some of the issues in 2008. But, according to the spokespersons, Ms. Sattaur rescheduled the meeting from January 29, 2008 to April 8th. They reportedly learnt of the change via a letter dated March 25, 2008. They said the second date was not convenient for most of the bar members.
“She didn’t want to entertain the complaints basically and was defending her assistant in Berbice at the meeting. She was saying the lawyers are the ones who are at fault.” According to the lawyers, the Guyana Association of Legal Practitioners wrote letters in 2008 to her superiors. Here again a meeting was requested, but this never materialised. “We didn’t even get a reply to our letter. It’s frustrating.”
Ms. Sattaur indicated that she re-scheduled the meeting last year, since it was close to the time of the Lusignan and Bartica massacres and also because of the death threats.
At that meeting, she said, the very issues were raised and she is now surprised that they have surfaced again since nothing was ever brought to her attention after that forum.
The call for the removal of Registrar of Lands Juliet Sattaur and her Registry Officer Michael Seepersaud intensified when the lawyers decided that they would not file matters before her at the Land Registry. But because this move would affect their clients, they opted to take legal action instead to compel her to execute her duties.
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