Ex-Finance Minister, Saisnarine Kowlessar, appeared to be one of the beneficiaries of lands on the East Bank of Demerara.
In April 2011, months before former President Bharrat Jagdeo, ended his two-terms in office, an agreement was signed between the Central Housing and Planning Authority (CH&PA) and CARICOM General Insurance Company, a company that had its registered office at Ruimzeight, West Coast Demerara.
The agreement named Kowlessar, who served as Finance Minister in the PPP government, as the Chief Executive Officer.
CARICOM was buying 50 acres behind Republic Park for $5M per acre.
Kowlessar’s company was expected to pay $62.5M upfront and the rest when the title passed. Possession of the 50 acres was granted on the signing of the agreement.
Based on the agreement, the company was expected to proceed immediately to carry out infrastructural works, including access roads, bridges, culverts, drainage, water and electricity networks.
CH&PA said that the designs of all the homes to be built by the company had to be approved by the authority.
It appeared that the company breached the agreement as it went ahead and sold house lots.
CH&PA’s agreements with developers on East Bank Demerara lands had been demanding that the lands were only for the construction of homes by the developers.
The agreement itself was very vague, giving little deadlines to the developer.
CH&PA on April 2, 2014, went ahead and closed another deal for a nearby 25-acre plot in April 2014.
This time, the name of the company and the principal involved were different.
The agreement named CARICOM General Land Development Inc. of Regent and Oronoque Streets as the party signing the deal with CH&PA.
Representing the company was its Director/Secretary, Kelly-Ann Payne-Hercules.
The developer was supposed to pay $78M upfront on the $225M price tag.
This time, the agreement was very specific. The property will have to be used for only residential purposes and for the construction and sale of houses only.
This company was supposed to complete all infrastructural works eight months from the time works started.
Failure to start infrastructural works within the timeframe could have resulted in CH&PA rescinding the agreement and forfeiting 10 percent of the deposit paid.
In this last agreement, the company had 24 months to complete all the homes it was promising and to have a 100 percent occupancy rate.
The conditions with the two companies are not that different from other developers that CH&PA sold lands to.
The deals, signed under previous Government of the People’s Progressive Party/Civic, have been angering state officials and citizens alike, for a simple reason. There are more than 25,000 applications for house lots in the database of the CH&PA.
There are few plots of lands for housing remaining in the East Demerara area.
The new Government is under pressure to find new lands.
Between 2011 and 2015, hundreds of acres of prime lands were parceled off and sold to private developers by CH&PA.
Many of them breached conditions by failing to build within the stipulated time. Instead they were selling off lands as house lots, instead of constructing homes.
CH&PA paid little attention to what the developers were doing.
Shortly after the David Granger administration took office last year, senior housing officials paid surprise inspection visits to lands stretching from Eccles to Golden Grove. These lands went to 20-odd developers.
The inspection team found little activities on the lands. The developers were hauled in for a meeting and given a February 2016 deadline to complete infrastructural works.
However, not much progress has been made. There were questions itself about some of the developers.
One of them is Luxury Realty, whose director, Ravie Ramcharitar, is also a senior official in Queens Atlantic Investment Inc. That company has is controlled by Dr. Ranjisinghi ‘Bobby’ Ramroop, the best friend of the ex-President Bharrat Jagdeo.
Luxury Realty benefitted from 28.8 acres of prime lands at Providence, but has done little since receiving the lands in December 2013.
Another person who benefitted was Mohamed ‘Arafat’ Qualander, one of the owners of Queensway, a Water Street business.
In November 2011, three days before general elections, he signed a deal with CH&PA for 35 acres of lands behind Golden Grove. He paid $500,000 per acre.
He is a close friend of former President, Donald Ramotar.
At the time, CH&PA was headed by former PPP/C Minister of Housing, Irfaan Ali.
Under his watch, the ‘Remigrant’ housing scheme was launched but its administration and who really received lands from the CH&PA is now being investigated.
Reportedly, the current CH&PA Board of Directors, headed by City Mayor, Hamilton Green, has launched a number of investigations in several transactions by the entity.
A key board meeting tomorrow will likely see a vote whether two CH&PA officials should be sent home, pending an investigation into several deals.
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