South American Woods Inc followed the required procedures when it embarked on a housing development project instead of the wood processing facility at Leonora according to proprietor Ed Ahmad.
Speaking to Stabroek News during a brief phone interview from New York, Ahmad stated that “all the proper steps were followed to get to where we are right now.”
Ahmad said that he would prefer to make no other comment in relation to the Restrictive Covenants placed on the sale of the land which stated that the land sale was done under the condition that “the property shall not be used for any other purpose other than for the construction and operation of a wood processing facility with the option of future development in manufacturing, industrial and commercial activities including the construction and operation of a shopping mall, providing that the construction of the wood processing facility is commenced first”.
Stabroek News asked if Ahmad had reached out to the Guyana Lands and Surveys Commission (GL&SC), which would need to be contacted in order to have the Restrictive Covenants removed however he refused to comment. Ahmad’s statement that “all of the proper steps were followed” is in direct contrast with the GL&SC’s position that the commission is yet to be informed that South American Woods is seeking the removal of the Restrictive Covenants since the sale of the land in 2011.
Stabroek News understands that since the sale of the land in 2011, the GL&SC has not been contacted to have the terms of the sale readjusted prior to South American Woods’ engagement in the development of a housing project and not the wood processing factory for which it had purchased the land at just over $80 million. The sale of the, 17 acres of land at Block ‘R’ Leonora (formerly Plantation Groenveldt), for only $80 million was based primarily on the intention by South American Woods to build a wood processing factory which would create jobs.
Under the Lands Registry Act Section 112 (1) “the proprietor of any registered land may apply to the Commission for the removal in whole or in part from the register of any easement or restrictive covenant which has been abandoned or extinguished.”
Ahmad told Stabroek News that he was not made aware of any ongoing investigation into the sale of the land by the Guyana Sugar Corporation and the National Industrial and Commercial Investments Ltd, which acted as an agent for the sale of the land.
As a result of the ongoing construction and signboards denoting a housing scheme instead of a wood processing facility, GuySuCo and NICIL jointly stated that an investigation will need to be conducted.
Up to November of 2013 the land had remained unoccupied except for the construction of three lone unfinished houses but that has since changed with new construction commencing and demarcation of house lots.
GuySuCo Company Secretary Frederick Singh had previously told Stabroek News that GuySuco will need to verify that the four houses currently in various states of construction on the land have nothing to do with a wood processing factory. Singh noted that it was not until Stabroek News called to inquire about the restrictions on the sale of the land that GuySuCo was made aware that there may be something to investigate. He had also stated that before any formal investigation it is possible that South American Woods would shelve the project due to the recent controversy surrounding the development project.
When Stabroek News spoke with Ahmad it was clear that the advertised Leonora Projects, inclusive of a large shopping centre and a partially gated housing scheme with 87 houses was going ahead. Ahmad did not say whether or not he was contacted by GuySuCo in relation to the land development project as yet.
GuySuCo and NICIL have been hesitant in taking responsibility for any formal investigation. Stabroek News was previously told by the Head of NICIL, Winston Brassington that the entity only acted as an agent for the sale and that GuySuCo dealt with all the payment transfers so any investigation would need to be conducted by the state owned entity. On the other hand GuySuCo’s company secretary directed Stabroek News to NICIL stating that as the agent for the sale NICIL would be better equipped to answer questions in relation to an investigation.
This publication was made to understand that the GL&SC would need to be alerted to any wrongdoing if Restrictive Covenants were not adhered to, but that the commission would not investigate the breach.