CJ to rule December 11 on Seafield farmers challenge to President’s revocation of leases

Revoked leases: Rice farmers (from left) Rawle Miller, Rupert Blackman, Doreen Monah and Philip Alexander Johnson holding up their leases earlier this month.

A group of Seafield, West Coast Berbice rice farmers, will know the outcome of their challenge to the revocation of their leases by President David Granger and removal from the land, when the Chief Justice delivers her ruling on December 11.

The matter which was previously being heard by Acting Chancellor Yonette Cummings-Edwards, was called for the first time yesterday afternoon, before Acting Chief Justice Roxane George SC, who has already set a date for ruling.

With submissions from the applicants and the Attorney General (AG) already before the court, yesterday’s hearing was for the court to ascertain from both sides, whether they had additional points to make.

Attorney Rajendra Jaigobin, for the farmers, told the judge that he had nothing to add, except to draw her attention to the fact that, while she had previously ruled in a similar matter, the current one is different, as the applicants have been ousted from possession.

In the previous matter he said, those farmers only had their leases cancelled by the President.

Thereafter, both Jaigobin and Counsel for the AG, Judy Stuart-Adonis, said that they will rely on submissions already before the court.

The Chief Justice said that the Chancellor is unable to complete the matters, because of “jurisdictional reasons,” adding that she now has conduct of the cases, and has already perused the file.

The judge subsequently announced December 11 for decision.

Farmers: Philip Alexander Johnson, Rupert Blackman, Rawle Miller and Doreen Monah have moved to the courts, to challenge the revocation and their removal from the land.

Some weeks ago, they issued an appeal for Chancellor Cummings-Edwards, who had completed hearing arguments in the case, to deliver the awaited ruling.

Some six months after final arguments were submitted, the Chancellor, who presided over the matters when she acted as Chief Justice, was yet to deliver her ruling.

The farmers have said that the prolonged delay has put their lives on hold, making it extremely difficult for them to adequately care for themselves and families; expressing hope that the matter be determined soon, so that they can move on with their lives.

In April last year, the quartet was forced to return to the court to challenge the revocation by President Granger.

They had earlier won a legal battle against the Mahaica, Mahaicony, Abary-Agricultural Development Authority (MMA-ADA), which had illegally cancelled their leases for farmlands at Seafield.

In May of this year, Justice George presided over the constitutional motion filed by Joylyn Nicholson and her sons, Gratien Nicholson, Vaughn Aaron and Herman Nicholson fellow villager Brian George and his daughter, Tiffany Hubbard.

In August, she ruled that the 50-year leases issued in 2014 by former president Donald Ramotar, were valid and binding, and were unconstitutionally cancelled by President Granger.

This case was filed after the challenge by Johnson and others.

The farmers said that they were able to get one crop from the land prior to the revocation and were preparing to reap the second crop when they were violently chased off the land, which was later rented out to persons outside of the village.



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