MMA leases cancelled at Seafield, No.40 villages

The MMA-ADA says that 45 state land leases at Seafield and No.40 villages on the West Coast Berbice have been cancelled.

In a notice in the March 18th Stabroek News, the Mahaica, Mahaicony, Abary-Agricultural Development Authority said that President David Granger had cancelled the state land leases. These cancellations usually occur over payments arrears.

In Seafield, 24 leases were cancelled for acreages ranging from 5.781 to 21.216. Among the leases cancelled are the 21.216 in the names of Claude Rexton Cummings and Vilma Mary Cummings, 16.649 acres in the name of Michael Pierre, 15.73 acres in the names of Carol Innis and Lataya D’Andra Auyesa Innis and 13.844 acres in the names of Shawn Rockliffe Monah, Fariel Eldica Johnson and Fayeaun Shennella Johnson.

In No.40 Village, the cancelled leases ranged in size from 7.1 acres to  18.773 acres. Among the leases cancelled were 18.773 acres in the names of Anthony Pellew, Juliet Pellew, Hakim Pellew and Khadim Pellew;  16.975 acres in the names of Desmond Ross and Volda Ross; 15.217 acres in the names of Joylyn Nicholson, Gratien Aden Oswald Nicholson, Vaughn Aaron and Herman Yulotto Nicholson and 13.254 acres in the names of Roxanne Whyte, Grivon Grant, Gryia Grant and Gryan Grant.

The notice made the point that the President had cancelled the leases as the MMA-ADA recently had a decision in a similar case go against it where it had purported to cancel leases.

Last month, a rice farmer won judgement when former acting Chief Justice Ian Chang ruled that he be restored his land since MMA-ADA had no authority to cancel his lease.

“In the instant case, it was not open to the MMA-ADA to determine the legal validity or invalidity of the grant of the lease and then to purport to cancel it on the basis of its own legal finding,” Justice Chang had declared.

In the affidavit supporting his motion, farmer Phillip Johnson said that on July 15, 2014, upon an invitation made by agents of the MMA-ADA, he applied for a lease of state land situated at Seafield Village, West Coast Berbice.

After paying the requisite application and other fees, Johnson said in his affidavit, in November of the said year, he was issued the lease for agricultural purposes under Section 3 (b) of the State Lands Act, Chapter 62:01 and in accordance with the MMA-ADA Act No. 27 of 1977.

He said he expended high sums in preparing and maintaining the land for rice cultivation and was up-to-date with rent payments and other charges to 2015.

The farmer said that he then saw a notice from the MMA-ADA in the September 26, 2015 edition of the Kaieteur News regarding the cancellation of state land leases in Seafield, West Coast Berbice.

In his judgment, Justice Chang adverting to the State Lands Act, said “…only the President, and not the Commissioner or the MMA-ADA, is authorized to issue a lease of State lands.”

He said that if the MMA-ADA was aggrieved by the Presidential grant, the MMA-ADA or any aggrieved person could have taken proceedings in court, not against the President but against the Attorney-General, challenging the legality of the grant made by him. Such a challenge was never made in court – let alone upheld by the court, and therefore it was not open to the MMA-ADA or any other person to make a determination that the Presidential grant of the lease was invalid and then proceed to cancel that grant. The grant did not `bear the mark of invalidity on its forehead.’”

He went on to add that since the purported cancellation of the lease was detrimental to the applicant’s financial and pecuniary interests, even if the MMA-ADA had the legal authority to cancel the lease, the applicant ought to have been afforded an opportunity of being heard before any decision was made by MMA-ADA to do so.

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