Aug 10, 2017 News
Chief Justice (Ag) Justice Roxane George has handed down a ruling in favour of a group of farmers, who challenged the constitutionality of the revocation of lease by President David Granger.
The applicants, Brian George and Tiffany Hubbard, Joylyn Nicholson, Gratien Nicholson, Vaughn Aaron and Herman Nicholson had challenged the President’s revocation of 50-year leases for State Land, located in the rear of No. 40 Village, West Coast Berbice.
According to court documents, the group of rice farmers moved to the High Court seeking orders to reverse the cancellation of the lease by the Mahaica/Mahaicony Abary Agricultural Development Authority (MMA/ADA).
The farmers contended that the move by the MMA/ADA is contrary to and in violation of Article 142 of the Constitution of Guyana, and should be rendered unlawful, null, void and of no effect.
The farmers sought over $5M in damages for breach of their fundamental rights and freedoms as guaranteed by Articles 142 and 153 of the Constitution of Guyana.
According to the statement of claim, the applicants stated that on November 3, 2014, they were duly issued with a Lease of State Land for Agriculture Purposes issued under Section 3(b) of the State Lands Act, Chapter 62:01, and in accordance with the MMA/ADA Authority Act No. 27 of 1977, to occupy a portion of State Land situated South of the MMA Main Canal in the rear of No. 40 Village, West Coast Berbice, for 50 years. The leases were approved by Former President Donald Ramotar.
Shortly after obtaining the lease, the applicants said that they occupied the land and started to expend huge sums of money preparing for the cultivation of rice.
Some time afterwards, they attempted to pay their rent to the MMA/ADA, but the authority refused to accept the payment.
A few weeks later, the claimants stated that they saw advertisements in the newspapers that their lease has been cancelled.
The notice read, “It is hereby given that his Excellency, the President of the Cooperative Republic of Guyana, has cancelled all State land leases as described in the Schedules hereunder…”
Among the Leases of State Land listed in the schedules was the lease issued to the Applicants.” According to the complainants letters were also issued that the President had revoked the lease.
“Indeed, (we were) unaware of the reason why our lease was cancelled and to date, no one has furnished us with any reason whatsoever in relation to same.
“At no time, were we afforded a hearing by any person or body or authority offering us an opportunity to show cause why our Lease should or should not be cancelled,” the legal documents had outlined.
As such, the group of farmers sought a conservatory order prohibiting servants and/or agents of the Mahaica/Mahaicony Abary- Agricultural Development Authority, a public statutory authority or any other Officer of the State from entering upon, remaining, occupying or in any manner whatsoever interfering with their quiet and peaceful possession, occupation and enjoyment of the lease lands.
Additionally, the applicants want costs and such orders or directions as the Court may consider appropriate for the purpose of enforcing or securing the enforcement of Article 142 of the Constitution of Guyana.
In her ruling on Tuesday, Chief Justice Roxane George S.C essentially outlined that the revocation of the leases were unconstitutional and null and void.
Justice George noted that the applicant’s leases constituted property under Article 142 of the Constitution and that the President’s revocation of those leases amounted to a deprivation to the Applicants property without prompt and adequate compensation as prescribed by Article 142 of the Constitution.
In the course of her ruling, the Chief Justice rejected the arguments advanced by the Attorney-General, that the President and his actions are immune from legal challenge and that the Applicants leases were invalid, because they were not signed by President Donald Ramotar. The Court held that the Applicants’ leases were properly executed and were valid and binding.
The applicants were represented by Attorneys-at-Law, Anil Nandlall, Mr. Manoj Narayan, Sasha Mahadeo-Narayan & Mr. Rajendra R. Jaigobin. Lawyers from the Attorney General Chambers provided representation for MMA/ADA.
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