Luncheon denies major ethnic imbalance in ‘Pradoville 2’ land holdings

Head of the Presidential Secretariat Dr Roger Luncheon yesterday rejected that there is a major ethnic imbalance among land owners at the new ‘Pradoville 2’ housing development at Sparendaam.

This is according to testimony given by Luncheon under cross-examination by attorney Christopher Ram in the $10 million libel case brought by President Bharrat Jagdeo against Kaieteur News and columnist Freddie Kissoon.

When it was put to him by the Ram that the individuals allotted land in the area were predominantly Indian Guyanese, Jagdeo’s chief witness rejected the suggestion entirely. Luncheon then continued to say that to the best of his knowledge the decision to allocate land was made by the Central Housing and Planning Authority (CH&PA). He added that although he was not aware of every single allocation, he was aware that a percentage of the persons granted land was African Guyanese. He then went on to list the names of the African Guyanese he could remember, which included himself, former chairman of the Caribbean Development Bank Dr Compton Bourne; Chief of Staff of the Guyana Defence Force Commodore Gary Best; Region Ten Chairman Mortimer Mingo; and Home Affairs Minister Clement Rohee.

Ram also asked Luncheon about the Indian Guyanese allotted land there and he said he was certain that they included President Jagdeo and ministers Robert Persaud and Priya Manickchand. Not satisfied with this answer, Ram suggested to Luncheon that Housing Minister Irfaan Ali, Finance Minister Ashni Singh, Dr Ghansham Singh and Lisavita Ramotar were also allotted land at “Pradoville 2.” Luncheon admitted that Ghansham Singh was an allottee, but said he had no recollection of the others.

Luncheon was also questioned by Ram on his recollection of the four non-elected members appointed by the PPP during the eight and ninth Parliaments. To the former, Luncheon said he doubts his recollection of them, while he listed three from the latter period, all of whom were Indian Guyanese.

Meanwhile, defence attorney Khemraj Ramjattan and Jagdeo’s lead attorney Anil Nandlall presented their prepared arguments on whether or not the 2008 report prepared by UN Independent Expert on Minority Issues Gay McDougall should be tendered as evidence, after which Justice Brassington Reynolds said that it would be unsafe to tender the report as evidence in the light of the fact that McDougall was not present.

He also added that it would be unfair to the witness to have it tendered. He did, however, defer making a definite decision until today, pending a review of arguments by the lawyer.

In her report, McDougall had noted that a serious concern was the stigmatisation of young African Guyanese males and entire communities, which reported feelings of being excluded, discriminated against and victimised. On the part of African Guyanese, McDougall said, there is a widely held belief that they are discriminated against by an Indian-dominated and supported government that puts Indian interests to the fore, particularly in resource allocation, government contracts and employment.

At the same time, she said Indian Guyanese believe that an Afro-centric political opposition, if in power, would settle political scores and work solely in the interests of African Guyanese.

The government found the report to be inaccurate as it was one that predominantly dealt with African Guyanese.
Ramjattan, in his presentation, argued that the McDougall report was commissioned by the government.

He also argued that the report was pleaded in the defendant’s defence in paragraph three of the statement, “so it’s not as if the plaintiff was caught unaware as to what was being used.” The attorney then noted that the evidence from Luncheon revealed that McDougal came to Guyana, spent several days here and conducted her work and argued as a result that she “had some personal knowledge of the matters.”

In turn, Nandlall referred to the report as hearsay, arguing that it is an “out of court statement, made out of court, by someone who is out of court,”  and therefore must be left alone.
The case continues today.

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