Jan 08, 2017 News
Three lots of land on which the Red House stands and not the actual building were included in an
invalid lease agreement signed by then Commissioner of Lands and Survey (CL&S) Doorga Persaud, Ralph Ramkarran SC, and other members of the Cheddi Jagan Research Centre (CJRC) in March 2012.
This revelation was made by Attorney General (AG) and Minster of Legal Affairs, Basil Williams yesterday, during a press briefing at the National Communication Network (NCN).
According to Williams, it is important that a distinction be made between the Red House building and the lands at Lot 65, 66, and 67 High Street, Kingston Georgetown on which the building occupies.
He, however, noted that the building itself was not included in that lease.
“If you want to include the building in the lease you would have to include lots 65, 66, 67 with the building and erection thereon.”
Williams said that this was not included in the lease because the then People’s Progressive Party government knew they could not sell or lease a national heritage monument that is a National Trust property.
He pointed out that although the lease was drawn up it was not executed because it was never sanctioned or authorized by the President of the day.
The AG reminded that the lease was purportedly made under Section 10 of the Land Department Act, which is under Chapter 59:01 of the Laws of Guyana.
“And in Section 10 it provides that the Commissioner could rent and sell (government lands) but with the authority/sanction of the president.”
He said that efforts were made in 2000, 2006, 2010 and again in 2011 to get approval for the purpose of the lease from former Presidents Bharrat Jagdeo and Donald Ramotar, but they both refused to sign it.
He added that when the application was made in 2006, there was a draft lease purporting to be between the National Trust, Government of Guyana and the CJRC but it was not signed.
“So someone decided they were not going to take that route and sign. It could have been Jagdeo providing the blockage in relation to the building as well as the land.”
The Minister said, “The (parties involved) sought to get the authority of then President Bharrat Jagdeo from 2000-2011. You would recall that in 2011 we had National Elections. So on January 11, 2011; President Jagdeo would have withheld his approval. It is clear that he did that for almost a decade.”
The Minister continued, “The law is very clear. And you would understand the reason why that is so. State lands are converted into government lands when the President issues a grant to the Commissioner of Lands and his successors. Government lands (the status) is different from that of state lands. But all government lands rest in the Commissioner of Lands and Survey.”
Williams explained that since the CL&S is the custodian of government lands he could make a lease with anybody but no one would necessarily know that he has the authority to do that. Section 10 of the Land Department Act makes provision that he (CL&S) could not execute any lease without the sanction/ and or approval from the president, Williams added.
Williams made it clear that it is an offence for anybody to hold out a lease or grant as being one with the approval of the president. Such an offence, he said, is punishable by 10 years imprisonment.
The Minister said that the Coalition Government at all times knew that anyone in the Red House building or purporting to use the building were trespassers and could be criminally sanctioned. He added that those individuals had no legal status as tenants since the lease was a nullity.
He said this was not the case of a landlord and tenant situation under the Landlord and Tenant Act. The Minister stated that one could have moved against such a transaction. It was fraudulent.
According to the AG, “They were trespassers. They announced the nefarious nature of the transaction and the fact that prime lands were actually transacted by persons close to or within the then government at a pepper corn rent of $1000 per year.”
The lease says, “The leaser hereby leases onto the lesse all that piece or parcel of government land situated at Kingston Georgetown. More fully described as follows: Area A now called Red House comprising lots 65, 66, 67 High Street Kingston situated in the City of Georgetown County of Demerara.”
Williams reminded that the Government had engaged in talks with representatives from the CJRC on how they can have the issue resolved. He recalled that a representative had proposed to him that government should give them a lease of the Red House building.
He added, “Which was a clear recognition that they knew the building was not part and parcel of the lease executed between Ralph Ramkarran SC and Doorga Persaud.”
Williams made it clear that the Government exercised their right and the state’s right when it retook possession of the building and lands. He said that the government pledged to restore the rule of law and will continue to do so.
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