Dec 31, 2013 News Comments Off on BM Soat ‘illegal’ constructions costs Guyana $40M – Robeson Benn
…company expands boundaries by 7,797 square feet
Public Works Minister, Robeson Benn, yesterday maintained that every bit of documentation dating back to as far as 1971, places the recently demolished fence erected by BM Soat Auto Sales was on Government reserve.
He said that since then the land was identified for a widened East Coast Public Road.
The legal battle mounted in 2012 by Bashair Mohamed, the owner of the business, led to a one year delay in the construction of the four-lane highway and to losses to the tune of some $40M, a figure that will no doubt continue to rise as the delay continues, the Minister said.
According to Minister Benn, even the 1957 Transport that Mohamed has for his property shows that the fence and buildings destroyed, were in fact on Government land.
Benn was adamant that by all surveys, the fence erected by Mohamed not only exceeds the 1957 boundary established by his Transport, it also exceed the Government surveys which were finalized in 1973.
Benn maintained that the fence “is clearly on the reserve.”
The minister added that BM Soat has encroached on his neighbours land and the government reserve by as much as 7,797 square feet.
Benn hosted at press engagement at his Wight’s Lane Office, where he sought to clear the air on the debacle surrounding the auto dealer and the move by Government to reclaim its land.
The Minister told media operatives that the land currently occupied by BM Soat exceeds the 57,934.80 square feet vested to him by the transport which he presented as evidence of ownership, by some 7,797 square feet.
“Specifically the northern boundary is exceeded by some 1,306 square feet and the southern boundary by 6,490 square feet.”
While the Public Works Ministry is vigorously seeking to reclaim the lands on the northern boundary of Mohamed’s Success, East Coast Demerara property, he said that the Ministry intends to direct the attention of the Ministry of Local Government to the encroachment of the southern boundary as a bordering road falls under the direct supervision of that Ministry.
The Minister said that it is important to note that since 2007, BM Soat has been continuously served with notices of violation both from the Ministry and the Neighbourhood Democratic Counsel (NDC), “but to no avail.”
Making reference to the large gate that BM Soat had erected on the northern boundary of the property, the Minister said that there is no approved access to the premises from the public road.
He said that the only approved access is on the eastern side of the premises and that access remains intact.
“The Ministry finds alarming Mr. Mohamed’s attitude of disregard for the rights of surrounding land owners, while at the same, he seeks the shelter of the court for alleged violations of his own…At this moment, he is embroiled in court proceedings with his neighbours to the west for encroaching on their land,” said Minister Benn.
Regarding the mix-up on Friday last when the fence was destroyed, to wit, the claim that the encroaching fence was demolished in spite of a court order prohibiting same, Benn said, “The Ministry wishes to make it clear that the fence had already been demolished before any court order prohibiting the said demolition was brought to the attention of the Ministry.”
He said that it was during the course of the removal of the debris that the Attorney for BM Soat, Khemraj Ramjattan, appeared with the Court Order.
“The action taken by the Ministry earlier in the day was pursuant to an order of the Chief Justice discharging the Conservatory Order which previously prevented the Ministry from removing the encroaching structure.”
Benn said that Mohamed had given an undertaking to the government that he would remove the fence by December 27, 2013.
It was only after he reneged on that promise that the Ministry commenced the demolition exercise.
“We want to make it very clear that we are acting within the ambit of the laws,” Minister Benn said.
As it relates to the Order secured by Ramjattan in the Court of Appeal, that matter will be called up for hearing today.
The Minister said, “We intend to vigorously pursue this matter.”
He did seek to point out that as it relates to the reclamation of land, the demolition of private structures on public reserve is not limited to the BM Soat property alone but all along the Coast stretching from Subryanville heading eastward.
According to Minister Benn, while all of the other property owners have conceded that their fences will have to be pushed back it was only BM Soat who challenged the Government through court action.
“This is not an issue with a singular person….BM Soat is the only outfit on the East Coast who has taken the Government to Court”
Chief Justice, Ian Chang, had at the time granted a Conservatory Order, which prevented the Ministry from taking any action with respect to any demolition.
Chang on December, 20 last, in his final ruling, found that the redress that was sought by Mohamed to restrict the state from destroying his property was ‘legally misconceived’ and as such he struck out the Conservatory Order that was granted in 2012.
According to Mohamed’s attorney, Ramjattan the Appellate Court on December 27 granted an Order upholding that which was struck out by Chang.
Ramjattan believes that the action of the Works Ministry was in contempt of that order by the Appellate Court when on Friday last, it proceeded to destroy the fence and properties on the disputed piece of land.
According to the ruling by Chief Justice Chang, even if it were a case where the State was threatening to intentionally violate Mohamed’s right to possession or ownership of the property “without prompt payment of adequate compensation, the proper form of relief which ought to have been sought was a declaration of the applicants right not to have his land taken without prompt payment and not an injunctive relief against the state.”
Chang in his ruling did point out that “in view of its findings that there was no cause of action for constitutional relief, it has no jurisdiction to proceed to assess the evidence and make a final determination as to who is legally entitled to ownership and possession of the disputed land as a matter of private law.”
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