Mr Anil Nandlall, following his appointment to the dual positions of Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs has embarked upon his duties with an admitted zeal and determination to set many things right. If only he knew!
I was honoured to be invited, within three days of his assumption in early December, 2011 to discuss the enduring predicament of the Deeds Registry. He must clearly have been reading in your medium the distressing tale of the attitude of his immediate precursor in office toward the matters relating to that department.
Our meetings filled me with great hope – at first, until that of the 4th day of January, 2012 following which I wrote my last letter to him on January 12, 2012 from which, for saving energy, I quote the following excerpt:
“From my earlier published letters as well as my views expressed to you in writing and in person following your assumption of office, I trust I made it clear to you that I consider the Deeds Registry Authority Act 1999 to be wholly unnecessary and unhelpful in addressing and redressing the present glaring inefficiencies and operational conditions that afflict the Deeds Registry. Indeed the Act is not designed to do so. Furthermore, its provisions which are merely administrative in character, impose upon the new Deeds Registry additional functions and responsibilities most of which the Department is in no condition to undertake in the present or short-term future.
“I have recorded in a torrent of written correspondence even before my unacknowledged letter of 3rd February, 2010 to the then Minister of Legal Affairs and thereafter, the parlous state of the Deeds Registry and its palpable deficiencies in both the quality of its operators and operations. The most telling of those messages concerned the deteriorated state of the land registers which are the very soul of the accurate and reliable information system which under the Deeds Registry Act the Registrar is charged to maintain. An alarming example of the disastrous situation is the absence of a reliable land register for the Town of New Amsterdam, the capital town of the county of Berbice.
“An equally disturbing consequence of the unreliable title information and the complete absence of a register of mortgages and leases, not upkept since 1982, is the virtual impossibility of our country’s invoking the legal process of Parate Execution for collection of overdue general rates on property in our city, townships and local government areas. Parate Execution has been therefore in abeyance, if not abandonment, since the year 1989.
“You may therefore understand my utter dismay and disappointment when you announced at our meeting what you described as Cabinet’s determination that the Deeds Registry Authority Act 1999 should be on the agenda for urgent implementation. I suspect that Cabinet could have established such a priority only in the absence of an honest and reliable briefing on the disastrous state of the Deeds Registry as a functioning entity.
“I am persuaded that an official charged with the extremely serious responsibilities of the Attorney General, the Government’s Chief Legal Advisor. could not fairly be expected to shoulder the burdens inherent in the management and administration of a Department like the Deeds Registry and in particular one in its present parlous state. There is, in my respectful view, compelling argument for the appointment of a junior Minister and a Permanent Secretary both with at least a law degree. Such qualifications would equip them to appreciate the urgency of marrying administrative requirements with the associated legal characteristics of departments that fall under the purview of that Ministry.
“May I state with utmost conviction that a conscientious address of the problems of the Deeds Registry lies not in the hands of lawyers. It is a glaring question of management and administration or lack of it – spanning more than two decades. But it must first be admitted! “The present situation demands the urgent identification and appointment of person(s) with Organization and Methods expertise to be inserted into the fray without delay. That expertise certainly does not exist in the Registry and I doubt that your Ministry or the Public Service Ministry possesses that capability. Gimmickry like “Competitiveness” has no place at this time of crisis!”
(I enclose separately a copy of that entire letter only for your background information).
I have simultaneously communicated to the Minister the name of the consultant whose O and M services should be immediately engaged. That consultant has much experience in relation to the Deeds Registry and awaits the call of the ministry toward the continuation of the remedial work indicated in her report of four years ago.
The essence of my current anxiety in the above regard is the impending disaster concerning the vault attached to the main Registry at Charlotte Street. It must be seen by a trained mind to be believed!
The Vault, as repository of all the written material and documentation of an office of record such as the Deeds Registry, ought to enjoy the greatest degree of archival expertise and management. It is the very soul of its operations. Well, this Vault is unmanaged, unsupervised and the scene of unforgivable neglect. A most regrettable aspect of its present condition is the daily traffic of young enthusiastic, busy and diligent employees who are allowed to grow in total ignorance of the fact that the bundles of files through which they rummage unsupervised are a vital national treasure of information which, once destroyed, are virtually irreplaceable and incapable of re-invention.
My recent daily visits there to obtain the most basic information are a soul-destroying experience for one who grew there as a young clerk and remembers the generation of orderliness, the fruits of which are now subjected to such Philistine disrespect and destruction.
Would the National Archivist, if there be such a person, come and see? The Minister, Permanent Secretary, Auditor-General must come and see!
And what of the disappointing Parliamentary Opposition? Could we believe that they really care, or are they sitting lazily by to inherit one day the detritus of what was once a well-ordered national land-titles system? They conveniently forget that they share with the governing party the responsibility and blame for the deterioration and ultimate decay of that system which have been so evident over the past twenty years or more. I wish they would remove the blindfold and come and see!
Meanwhile, the end of the current month of March, 2012 will mark with a dark and indelible blot one full year that the government has seen fit to leave this essential department without a Registrar as head. With an almost unforgivable abandonment and a palpable lack of conscience they continue within humanity and utter disrespect to abuse and take for granted the faithful and unrelieved services of an acting Deputy Registrar of Deeds. Such an atrocity is without precedent. Surely it is high time to bring it to an end.
Leon O Rockcliffe