Apr 24, 2018 News
Minister of State, Joseph Harmon has labelled as “unfair”, a recent ruling of the High Court, which has ordered the government to pay over $1.7B in damages to Toolsie Persaud Limited (TPL) in relation to a land dispute. He noted that the previous PPP administration has left some “deep dark holes” for the current administration to fill.
Last Thursday, High Court Judge Brassington Reynolds handed down the decision, ruling that the government of Guyana will have to pay the $1.7B in damages, as well as $500,000 for the defendant’s court cost, along with interest.
The tract of land that was subject of the court matter is west of the UG access road, and borders south of the Rupert Craig Highway. It includes the land that MovieTowne is currently building its sprawling complex.
In May of 2011, Multicinemas Guyana Incorporated purchased part of the disputed land from the National Industrial and Commercial Investments Limited (NICIL) for $187M.
The Trinidadian company wanted the land for the construction of several cinemas and a mall. Multicinemas is owned by the MovieTowne shopping complex, located in Port of Spain, Trinidad.
Around October 1987, Toolsie Persaud entered into a written agreement of sale with government for immovable property, which was impliedly warranted to belong to the government.
This included a tract of land described in official documents as areas ‘C’, ‘F’, ‘G’, ‘H’, ‘K’, ‘N’, ‘J’ and ‘O’, at Plantation Turkeyen. The tract of land was in excess of 83 acres.
The land was vested to the state in July 1977 via compulsory purchase orders made four months earlier.
According to the affidavit, in 1987, Persaud agreed that the purchase price was $2,217,100 with one third paid at the signing of the agreement. The balance was to be paid on the passing of the Transport. The company never received the transport although it took possession in 1988.
In 1993, Toolsie Persaud then moved to acquire the lands via the Prescriptive Title process and the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) in 2008 adjudged that areas ‘C’, ‘F’, ‘G’ and ‘H’ had been acquired by the company via Prescriptive Title.
Following the CCJ decision, the Guyana Government was ordered to pass the Transport. However, the then Attorney General refused or neglected to and Toolsie Persaud commenced legal proceedings in 2008.
According to the court documents, during this period of the court actions, Toolsie Persaud found out that the land was put up for sale by Government. Immediately the company attempted to block the move, in January 2009.
The action was dismissed, but an appeal was filed in 2010.
According to Minister Harmon yesterday, the judgment on Friday, stemming from a case which the Coalition Government inherited, has not yet been discussed at the level of Cabinet and he therefore could not say what the decision will be.
“It is something that will have to be discussed at Cabinet,” he said yesterday.
“It just goes to show the levels to which this country had sunk under the PPP and the huge amount of debt they have created for us. We have had no benefit whatsoever from that,” Minister Harmon said.
He said the Opposition sold the land to persons who were on friendly terms with them, at a price which was beneficial to those persons.
“But now the burden has become one for us. That is not fair,” he stated.
According to reports, the judge ordered that interest be paid at a rate of six percent per annum from the filing of the writ in 2008 to last Friday. Additionally, the interest of four percent per annum has to be paid from the date of judgment, until full payment.
Lawyers for the State had requested and were granted a six-week stay of execution in the event of an appeal.
TPL and the government were represented by Senior Counsel Robin Stoby and Ashton Chase, respectively. NICIL, meanwhile, was represented by attorney Timothy Jonas.
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