Businessman and prominent engineer Charles Ceres has announced that he intends to take Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo to Court over claims he made against Ceres at a press conference last Thursday.
The Opposition Leader attempted to implicate Ceres in what appeared to be a massive land-grabbing scheme by the government of thousands of acres of land through the Guyana Lands and Surveys Commission (GLSC), following the No Confidence Motion.
Ceres told members of the media yesterday, “I intend to have a suit filed against him for him to retract that statement, and all of the people who have made that statement.”
The Opposition Leader had cast the situation as an attempt to steal state assets for personal benefit in the oil sector as, during his intended exposé, he said that the individuals he mentioned could perhaps sell land to oil companies. He’d added that if any of these lands are resold to oil companies, a People’s Progressive Party (PPP) government would treat those as stolen assets.
In an attempt to link Ceres to President David Granger, Jagdeo had said that Ndibi Schwiers, wife to Ceres, works at the Department of the Environment, which comes under the Ministry of the Presidency.
To this, Ceres said, “I don’t work for the Government of Guyana.”
Providing file numbers for the businessman’s land allocations to be sourced, Jagdeo stated that Ceres got 1,297.1 acres in the Canje Creek, Region Six, and 112 acres in Bohemia, Region Six. He said that Ceres got a further 5,000 acres, but did not say where the land is located, and another plot of land at Liliendaal, East Coast Demerara, for which no further details were provided.
Commissioner of Guyana Lands and Surveys Commission (GLSC), Trevor Benn, held a press conference yesterday to respond to the claims made by Jagdeo. He had responded to Jagdeo’s claims immediately after the press conference, calling it distasteful misinformation.
Benn addressed the claims made against several of the persons Jagdeo had mentioned, asking reporters to be respectful of the confidentiality of GLSC’s clients, for information not shared at the press briefing.
He only said that Ceres had obtained land at Liliendaal, Turkeyen, and that when this government took office, most of the land in that area had already been given out to persons with low fees. He added that, for the land Ceres was allocated, he was paying much higher fees than many others in the area in control of larger tracts of land.
Nearing the end of the press conference, Ceres came to speak for himself. He provided a lengthy account to members of the media, accompanied with documents to verify his leases, and made several statements about land allocations by the previous PPP government, particularly during Jagdeo’s tenure as President.
While Jagdeo claimed four separate allocations were made to Ceres, the businessman categorically refuted that, providing that he was only allocated two plots of land.
The first tract was of 1,297.12 acres in the Canje Creek Area. Ceres provided photocopies of a letter from former Manager of the Land Administration Department of GLSC, Devrajh Brijraj, to Ceres. It shows that the businessman’s application to lease the land was approved since November 8, 2004. Ceres further stated that he relinquished the lease to the 1,297.12 acres of land in the Canje area, since several partners on the lease were unable to afford the development costs, and he was unwilling to absorb the costs.
Kaieteur News is in possession of two letters, which detail his correspondence with Commissioner Benn in 2017, when he requested the relinquishment.
Ceres added that the PPP, under Jagdeo and former President Donald Ramotar, granted land to China Paper for $50 per acre per year, while he paid $1,000 per acre per year for land in the Canje Creek up to the time of relinquishment.
The second tract Ceres was allocated is of 4.5 acres of land, which was granted to Ground Structures Engineering Consultants Incorporated (GSEC), a company owned by Ceres and his children. The Liliendaal tract, according to a photocopy of a GLSC document (File no. 413342) provided by Ceres, was applied for on April 3, 2017 and approved on June 9, 2017 for work to commence with effect from May 1, 2017.
Ceres was keen to note that the circumstances of this allocation are on public record, as he delivered a copy of his documents to the Opposition Leader’s office before he approached the press at GLSC. Ceres noted that he pays $200,000 per acre per year on that land, which is being beneficially utilised as dictated by the terms of the lease.
Ceres said that he paid more per acre for land in Liliendaal which was reclaimed from swamplands, than Jagdeo and others had paid for lands “developed at the expense of taxpayers for their lands in Pradoville 1 and 2”.
During his meeting with reporters yesterday, Ceres said that Jagdeo should be upfront with him.
“So if Bharrat wants to know anything about me, he can call me. I welcome his call.” Ceres said.
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