Members of the Lamaha Gardens Community Cooperative Society yesterday said that they have moved to the court in an effort to reclaim the Lamaha Gardens playground they said was sold illegally to a private businessman.
The plot of land, located at 142 Durbana Square, was sold on January 13, 2013 to businessman Terrence Taljit for the sum of $25M and the residents claimed that the playground rightfully belongs to the community and was unlawfully sold and transported to Taljit.
At a specially convened meeting yesterday at the playground, members of the committee sought to bring the small turnout of residents up to date on the recent developments unearthed by investigations into the roles of the parties involved in the transaction.
Ronald Alli, an executive member of the committee, told the gathering that they have since commenced legal proceedings by way of writ of summons to set aside the transaction. “The defendants to those proceedings are Taljit, [Chief Co-ops Officer Kareem Abdul] Jabar and the liquidator [Cecil] Ramnarine… and the formal defendants are the Registrar of Deeds and the Attorney General so that at this time our lawyers have assured us that our claims have been made within the relevant time period and action will go forward,” he said.
“It was not just a matter of going to court, it was a matter of collecting data, analyzing data and making the right determinations… That is why for the last four of five months we have not come back to you because we were doing our investigative work,” he noted.
Alli also revealed that the Guyana Police Force, which had been requested to investigate the transactions, had issued two reports on the investigations. “The one in August, we were not given a copy of it until November. I am impressed with the depth of the report,” he said, while noting that the conclusions in the report suggested charges.
He also said that five statements obtained from three of the defendants were contained in the police report and that the interest of Taljit enquiring about the land was evidenced in the police report.
In Taljit’s statement, which Alli read to the residents, it was stated that during the months of July to August 2012, he met with former Minister of Education Dale Bisnauth, who arranged a meeting with Minister of Local Government Ganga Persaud where he told the minister that he was interested in purchasing the property. “The Minister told him that the land is owned by CSA [the Civil Service Association Co-operative Society] and explained the procedure to be followed if the land is being sold. The minister told him that Kareem Abdul Jabar whose office is at the Ministry of Labour is in charge of societies and he can contact him to find out if the land is for sale,” Alli said.
According to Alli, the tender process was also a “flawed” one, especially with regards to the relationships of those persons tendering. “There was no tender box. The tenders were submitted at the home of the liquidator in Lusignan,” he said.
Alli added that it was “absolutely amazing” that two days after the evaluation certificate was issued, two tenders were received above the evaluation price.
He also informed that in early May of 2013, the Ministry of Local Government requested the City Council to put a cease order on all works so that Taljit could not carry out any works. “We are aware that he made applications to put up a bond but he was not allowed to,” he said.
In July 2013, he said, the Government of Guyana through the Minister of Labour rescinded the order of cancellation of the Civil Service Association Hous-ing Cooperative Society on the grounds that the dissolution was irregular. He also said that the Ministry had appointed an interim management committee, which is headed by Roy McArthur.
Alli said that they have since made several appeals to the President on the matter. “We made two appeals to the President; one in January and the second one in December 2013… and we were able to ask for further review…I am aware that the President has requested further information from his agencies,” he said.
McArthur, another member of the committee, had said that the Labour Minister had also admitted that the sale was illegal.
Last February, the Guyana Public Service Union (GPSU) had claimed ownership of the land and had said that it was consulting with its attorneys on a course of action. The union had condemned the sale of the land and had accused “elements” of government of playing a part in it.
The GPSU had said that it only became aware of the move to sell the land in November 2012, when a notice, inviting bids by November 23, 2012, was placed in the Guyana Chronicle by Ramnarine.