…was in possession of land for years
Former chairman of the Mahaica/Mahaicony Abary Agricultural Development Authority (MMA-ADA), Kenneth Sealey, has distanced himself in the decision-making process of lands that were approved while he was sitting there.
In fact, Sealey said in a statement yesterday, the lands were occupied by him years before, and only in 2016 were they placed under a company. That company has reportedly been struck off by the Companies’ register for not being in compliance with a number of filings.
The report on Sealey would come days after another one involving the current chairman, Kelvin Saul.
Saul, under his stewardship, was leased over 10,000 acres. He said it was forest lands in the MMA-ADA area that he converted to agricultural ones and hence the transactions.
Sealey yesterday, in his statement to the reports in Kaieteur News, said he did not benefit by receiving state lands while on MMA-ADA board.
“The state lands I am in possession of were given long before I became chairman of the MMA-ADA Board. It was on the advice of my attorney that I decided to put these lands under the umbrella of a company named “Albertha Investments Inc.’ to regularize my holdings. I had no input in scheduling what application came before the land committee nor did I participate in any deliberations concerning Albertha Investments Inc.”
He claimed to have been in occupation of the Herstelling lands since 1981.
“It was in August, 1981 the late Sappa Legall, ‘Horseman’ Murray and I crossed the Berbice River from California on the East Bank to Herstelling on the West Bank to hunt and to look for cattle pasture. I had moved my cows from Mahaicony to No. 28 Village, West Coast Berbice, as a stop-gap. Now I had to find a place to set up a permanent pasture. It was during this adventure that I came across a valley lush with ‘fina’ grass. I decided that this was the place to set up a good cattle pasture.”
Later that week, Sealey said, he visited the MMA-ADA office at Onverwagt, West Bank Demerara and received information from Cecil Ramdat about the status of the land.
“He told me that it was state land and that it was unoccupied. I did an application for it immediately. I was interviewed by a Land Selection Committee chaired by the late Henry Wade. I bought a 19 feet boat from the boat builders at Crabwood Creek, transported it down to California and the following week, I recruited seven labourers (cutlass men) from Mara, East Bank Berbice.”
Sealey said that the workers camped in and returned home on weekends. They cleared and burnt savannahs.
“Gregory Chisholm and Steve Sharper were my main lieutenants. I also employed an expert shovel man, Mc Lean Rutherford alias Hymac from Belladrum. He camped in for two weeks. By that time he completed a water hole and a high spot in the savannah. Later, I built a house on the high spot. Julius Sealey and Murtland Sobers constructed a 14’ x 10’ flat roof building.”
In August, 1983, Sealey explained, he drove in 37 head of cattle from No. 28 Village to Herstelling.
“We commenced driving at 03:00 hrs and arrived at 17:00 hrs that day. In 1985, I hired MMA-ADA D-6 bulldozer, operated by Rex Mc Kenzie and dug another water hole and built a second high spot beside the Herstelling drain embankment. The same year I erected another building on this spot.”
In fact, the former chairman said, his late uncle, Kendell Sealey, was the crop farmer and the cattle man was Kenrick Deen.
“Winston Rockcliffe transported tons of pumpkin and plantain from Herstelling to Mahaicony. Mr. I. Habibulla purchased and transported the first truck load of bulls to the Georgetown abattoir in August, 1986. This is a synopsis of my activities on the lands at Herstelling, West Bank Berbice.”
With regard to the 152 acres of land referred to in the Abary River area, Sealey said that in 1989 the Government was divesting state assets and several state rice mills were up for sale.
“The late Ivan Crandon was leading a group at Perseverance, Mahaicony to purchase the Belmont Rice Mill. I was approached and I joined up with the group. The company, ‘Belmont Investments Ltd’, was formed and registered to be involved in general agricultural practices. The company purchased the G.D.F. farmhouse at Onverwagt and leased from the MMA-ADA 8 blocks of developed rice land and the undeveloped Abary River Flats which MMA-ADA had identified for small ruminants farming.”
The former chairman said that because of poor drainage and irrigation services, compounded with the 2005 and 2006 floods, the company was unable to keep up with the rates. The MMA-ADA repossessed the lands.
“However, individuals were called in and given first preference to get parts of the repossessed lands. The late Prince Thompson and I had to pay $900,000 to MMA-ADA, receipt #3438, to retake control of the Abary Flats which we had controlled and developed under Belmont Investments tenure. This transaction was done on the 26th May, 2007 ever since we had been in occupation.”
Sealey insisted that he had rights to the 2000 acres of lands.
“May I remind you of Article 18 of the Constitution: Land to the tiller. Since I have been in occupation and have developed these lands for nearly 35 years and invested millions of dollars, I have been advised by my attorney that I have a constitutional right to the lands whereby the lease was granted. The allegation was slanderous and defamatory and I will take legal action against the appropriate person or persons.”
He referred to reports attributed to the Opposition which indicated that the People’s Progressive Party was compiling a lists of questionable transactions.
“…well, you can start at the 287 plots of land that were issued in 2014 for 99 years lease, rent free and an ethnic distribution pattern of 98:2 ratio in Region #5.”
Albertha Investments Inc. was taken off the Registry’s list in June last year, three years after it received 2,000 acres.
The establishment of the company would have been key for the lands to be approved for him.
The official would have had to submit an application that outlines his plans for the lands.
The allocation of the large pieces of lands to the two men has been raising eyebrows because of potential conflict of interest scenarios.
Sealey was appointed Chairman in late 2015. He served there reportedly to the end of 2017.
Saul after then became the chairman.
There has been increased scrutiny into the allocations of lands and other transactions involving state properties, within recent times.
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