Latest update March 31st, 2023 12:59 AM
Dec 15, 2015 News
… lease was officially cancelled on December 1, 2015
By Jarryl Bryan
Minister of State, Joseph Harmon has rapped former President Bharrat Jagdeo over his comments that the
controversial Edul Ahmad land lease was revoked in 2009. Harmon said that Government has no record of this claim. He therefore called on Jagdeo to bring the evidence.
Harmon made this charge yesterday. He made it clear that contrary to Jagdeo’s claims that the lease was terminated back in 2009, the Guyana Lands and Survey Authority could attest to the lease never being terminated, until recently.
“The lease (was) not terminated (in 2009),” Harmon asserted, in response to Jagdeo’s defense. “So if Jagdeo is saying that it is misleading, let him produce the evidence.”
Harmon pointed out that Jagdeo, in his response, never denied that the lease was prepared for Ed Ahmad in seven days. The Minister also observed that while Jagdeo is yet to produce documents showing that the lease is terminated, Government has already produced the lease itself.
“And I have a firm report from the (Guyana) Lands and Surveys Commission that the lease was never terminated,” Harmon stated. “In fact, I have asked Lands and Surveys to demand arrears payments from the (Ed Ahmad) company, from 2009 to 2015.”
Harmon noted that the lease has only been formally terminated, as of December 1, 2015.
The PPP had been stridently denying the claims that its administration engaged in corrupt practices while in office.
So on Thursday last, Harmon had revealed that Jagdeo, while President, and his government secretly approved a lease of prime property near the army headquarters in Thomas Lands, and gifted it to his embattled
friend, Edul Ahmad.
The 2008 transaction was completed in just seven days from the time Ahmad made his application to the time he received his lease, which also gave him the option to buy. On May 22, 2008, Ahmad through a company called Generation Complex Inc. applied for the land—about 2.311 acres at Plantation Thomas Lands (the corner of Thomas and J.B Singh roads, south of Camp Ayanganna.
It was approved and a cadastral survey was executed by May 29- five days later. It was registered that same day, with Ahmad signing the lease on May 30.
Months after the deal was signed, the PPP/C government engaged in a legal battle with the Guyana Public Service Union (GPSU) for the lands. The union had insisted it had control of the land. To this day, the matter is still in the High Court.
At a press conference at the GPSU Headquarters yesterday, First Vice President of the Union, Mortimer Livan, was asked to comment on the imbroglio. Livan recalled that the land was occupied by the Union since the 1970’s, but due to financial constraints they could not rehabilitate it then. He said that the rates and taxes were nevertheless being paid.
“But in 2009 we decided that we would rehabilitate the place,” Livan related. “While we started and tried to put down the post of the fence, the police came and told us (that) we have to stop, that it’s private land (and) we cannot do that.”
Livan also noted that when the police came to tell them that, they came with guns. He said that the union
members were forced to back off. He went on to state that while they were subsequently told it was Government land, signs were put up proclaiming it to be private property.
“And we learned, since then, that it was land given to Ed Ahmad. And what surprised us then, it took one week for the survey to be completed,” Livan said. “What is very interesting is when you go and survey your land; you need to inform your neighbours what is happening. They never did that.”
All through this time, the then PPP/C Government never disclosed that it had leased the lands to Ahmad, who promised to sink US$75M to develop a hotel, complete with restaurant, bar, a casino, club, and trade exhibition hall.
Ahmad was also bound to submit a business plan a month after he signed the lease- on May 30, 2008. The lease had provided for Ahmad to buy the land for just about $50M, once he had spent about US$30M of the US$75M investment he committed to.
However, Government also revealed on Thursday that Ahmad has lapsed in his lease payments of $500,000 annually. As a matter of fact, the New York-based real estate magnate, who is to be sentenced in a New York court in February, only made one payment. This is in direct breach of his lease.
Government has already taken back the land from Ahmad, using clauses in the 99-year lease agreement that have to do with the annual rents. As a matter of fact, the lease was discussed last Tuesday by the Cabinet, along with the applications which showed the high interest and the speed in which it was processed.
Meanwhile, Livan was asked whether the case was still engaging the attention of the courts. He stated that it is. He also expressed appreciation at the recent statements made by the Government that the deal would be rescinded and the land given back to be used as it should, recreational purposes.
He noted that rehabilitation works, including fencing and renovations to the building could start soon. He also noted that since the new administration came into power, the union has been pushing for the land to be returned.
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