President David Granger says that efforts were made to have discussions with the Opposition over the Red House issue, however the party became disrespectful.
The Head of State was at the time delivering remarks at a Media Brunch at State House, Georgetown, last Sunday.
“It is not as though there is no attempt to sit and reason so that we can use State property for a public good, (but) people are becoming violent, talking about contamination… So I am not going to give up State property. I am going to participate in ensuring that the children of this country could recognise for all time, all of the Presidents starting from Arthur Chung right down to David Granger,” the President said.
His comments would come days after he ordered the removal of the Cheddi Jagan Research Centre Incorporated (CJRCI) from the Red House building, following a report made public by the Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs, Basil Williams, who stated that the company’s possession of the building was illegal.
The CJRCI was given up to January 1, 2017, to vacate the premises, however Ministry of the Presidency staff reportedly turned up before the deadline and attempted to establish possession of the building which resulted in an “square-off” between some Government and Opposition supporters.
President Granger on Sunday told media operatives that the Red House controversy was not ignited by a question of law, but of principle.
“It is not a question of law, my brothers and sisters; it is not a question about right, this is the mentality which is driving the battle. Somebody is accusing persons who do not belong to one party of contamination. I find that offensive!”
The Head of State said that Government had made attempts to have Red House expanded to feature the lives of all other Presidents of Guyana, but this proposal was shot down by the Opposition.
According to previous reports, AG Williams had argued that the plots of land in question are Government’s hence, approval or sanction by the then President was needed; however, this was reportedly not done.
The Opposition subsequently called out Williams, saying that his contention is flawed. Former Attorney General, Anil Nandlall, had argued that the State Lands Act, the Land Department Act and similar types of legislation, the power to lease, sell or grant licences, resides with the President, and he is empowered to delegate such authority to the Commissioner of Lands and Surveys, the Commissioner of Forestry or the Commissioner of Geology and Mines or the Manager of the MMA/ADA.
The AG on Saturday explained that the occupants were given adequate notice “…nearly two years, so we acted properly when we exercised the state rights to retake possession of the buildings and lands.”
In fact, the occupants had no status as a tenant and “having announced the nature of the transaction and the fact that prime lands were transacted by persons close to the government or within the then government at a rent of $1000 a year, it is clear that such a transaction could be fraudulent or a criminal transaction.”
The Minister emphasised that as trespassers, the government had no right to provide any notice. He said that under the previous administration, none was given when they wanted to remove persons from government lands.
Meanwhile, the Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union (GAWU) issued a statement yesterday, saying that it has been “following closely the unfolding situation regarding the Cheddi Jagan Research Centre and the acts in this regard by the Government.”
“Cde (Comrade) Cheddi was a steadfast champion for the sugar industry’s nationalization which took place in 1976. This was an important step in asserting our economic independence – a continuing objective at this time. He was also an ardent fighter for GAWU’s recognition which also was realised in 1976 following a hard and arduous struggle that lasted nearly three (3) decades.”
“Undoubtedly, among Dr Jagan’s voluminous documents, housed by the CJRC, are those which concern, among others, the struggles of the workers. They represent a cherished part of our people’s history and they serve as an important reminder of and a link to our rich past. The Red House site has had a long association with Dr Jagan who lived there between 1961 and 1964 and has housed the CJRC for some seventeen (17) years now. This fact provides a compelling reason why the Centre should continue to operate from the Red House which, we strongly believe, is most suitable for this purpose.”
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