Ramjattan has in the past called for a Commission of Inquiry to elicit answers to questions raised with regards to how top government officials were allocated land at the controversial Pradoville Two housing scheme. The exclusive housing development at Sparendaam North, in proximity to the sea defence structure, has been under scrutiny with several members of society accusing the officials building homes there of elitism, in view of the ‘special‘ treatment afforded to the development. Since construction began in 2010, questions have been raised about whether the land was advertised publicly and how it was allocated and valued, among other things.
During court testimony by Head of the Presidential Secretariat, Dr Roger Luncheon last year in the libel case brought by former President Bharrat Jagdeo against Kaieteur News and columnist Freddie Kissoon, several disclosures were made and Ramjattan had said that the revelations necessitate a Commission of Inquiry to get answers.
On Friday, the AFC Chairman told Stabroek News that he would still like an investigation on how the land was allocated and the criteria used. It could be easily done but the government does not want to do it, he said. He had said that an inquiry should investigate who was the previous owner, how it was acquired by NICIL and transferred to the Central Planning and Housing Authority and how it was allocated. He also said that the price of the land was another issue and he noted that the area was prime land.
Ramjattan restated some of those issues last week. “They literally divested the land unto themselves” through NICIL and this is illegal, he said. He added that the AFC plans to ask NICIL officials these questions when they appear before a parliamentary committee. He noted that top government officials including ministers and the former president Bharrat Jagdeo got lots there. He questioned the valuation for the land and pointed out that it was prime land. “Was it a genuine valuation for land in that area,” he asked, noting that lands close by are worth much more. Valuable assets of the people were misappropriated and NICIL has given away prime land to people close to the government, he said.
During a visit to the area last week by Stabroek News, it was observed that eight houses were completed or under construction.
The AFC Chairman also urged persons who have information on NICIL transactions to provide this to the AFC as they are accumulating the information to ask the officials about it.
Ramjattan has argued that while the ordinary person would have had to go through a rigorous process to obtain a lot including proving that they have children, those accessing the same at Pradoville Two did not go through this process. He had noted that from what was revealed it was not the CHPA that was awarding the lots but Dr Luncheon was “calling up” persons and the house lots were distributed in this way. In court last year, Luncheon said that to the best of his knowledge the decision to allocate land was made by the CH&PA. He named Chairman of Region 10, Mortimer Mingo, the PNCR’s top official in Region 10, as one who was offered house lots at Pradoville 2. The housing scheme has attracted searing criticism from sections of the public including the PNCR over the lack of transparency and preferential services to it. The linking of Mingo to the scheme was seen as embarrassing to the main opposition party as Mingo had made no prior revelation about it. Mingo had said that sometime on or about August 2010, he received a telephone call from Luncheon who informed him that the government was in the process of allocating house lots at Sparendaam where the radio antennas were located, and that these plots of lands were being allocated to senior government functionaries and Regional Chairmen. He said that Luncheon told him that he was identified as one of the recipients for a house lot and would be contacted later as to how the allocation would be made.
The manner of the offer by Luncheon suggested that there was no defined framework for apportioning house lots, especially since Mingo resided in Linden and lots such as these are usually assigned to eligible families who have no lots. The Pradoville 2 controversy surged into the public eye in October 2010.
Region Four Chairman, Clement Corlette who is a top PNCR member had been seeking answers about the controversial scheme and had sent a letter to the CH&PA last year. He had said that his main concern “remains the way in which they (government) usurped the land and have not presented the plans to the local authority.” He said that due process was not followed.
In a letter to Chief Executive Officer of the CH&PA Mryna Pitt, dated April 14, 2011 Corlette said that buildings at ‘Pradoville 2’ may be in violation of several regulations. He said that permission was not sought from the local authorities, building plans were never submitted nor were they certified by the Environmental Health Officer.
He had sought answers on the development and in his letter, which was seen by Stabroek News, he noted that at a Region Four Administrative Committee meeting on April 12, 2011 the Chairman of the Industry/ Plaisance Neighbourhood Democratic Council Clinton Rollox was unable to account for the extensive work underway at the development.