President’s cancelling of rice land leases unconstitutional -CJ

Acting Chief Justice Roxane George SC

Acting Chief Justice Roxane George SC on Tuesday ruled that President David Granger’s cancellation of leases granted to several West Coast Berbice rice farmers last March was unconstitutional given in part that those agreements were valid and binding.

This is according to one of the attorneys for the affected farmers, Anil Nandlall who said too that the court found that the revocation amounted to “a deprivation of the applicants’ property without prompt and adequate compensation as prescribed by Article 142 of the Constitution”.

Stabroek News reached out to the Ministry of Legal Affairs/ Attorney General’s Chambers for comment on the case but did not get a response. The AG’s Chambers represented the State and the Mahaica, Mahaicony, Abary-Agricultural Develop-ment Authority (MMA-ADA), in the proceedings.

Acting Chief Justice Roxane George

Brian George and Tiffany Hubbard, Joylyn Nicholson, Gratien Nicholson, Vaughn Aaron and Herman Nicholson who were all granted 50-year leases in Number 40 Village by then President Donald Ramotar in November, 2014, moved to the court earlier this year after observing a notice in the Kaieteur News, published by the MMA-ADA on March 18, 2016 under the caption “Cancellation of State Land Leases Seafield and No. 40 Villages, West Coast Berbice”.

The notice read: “Notice is hereby given that His Excellency, the President of the Cooperative Republic of Guyana has cancelled all State land leases as described in the Schedules hereunder”.

They received letters informing of the cancellation on March 21, 2016.

In a statement to the media, Nandlall said that Justice George on Tuesday made her ruling and granted to the applicants several orders.

The orders granted are: a declaration that the cancellation of the Applicants’ lease amounted to the compulsory acquisition of their leasehold interest thereof without the prompt payment of any or adequate compensation as is guaranteed by Article 142 of the Constitution of Guyana; a declaration that the cancellation of the Applicants’ lease was unlawful, null, void and of no effect and a conservatory order prohibiting the servants and/or agents of MMA-ADA, or any other Officer of the State from entering upon, remaining, occupying or in any manner whatsoever interfering with the Applicant’s quiet and peaceful possession, occupation and enjoyment of the said lease unless compensation is paid which is to be determined by the parties.

Additionally, he said the court ordered costs to the applicants in the sum of $300, 000.

Nandlall said that in her ruling, Justice George held that the applicants’ leases constituted property under Article 142 of the Constitution and that the revocation of those leases by the president were unconstitutional and null and void.

In the course, of her oral ruling, he said the Chief Justice rejected the arguments advanced by the Attorney General, that the President and his actions are immune from legal challenge and that the applicants’ leases were invalid because they were not signed by Ramotar. The Court held that “the applicants’ leases were properly executed and were valid and binding”, he said.

 

According to the statement, it is to be noted that several similar legal challenges were filed last year by Nandlall for several rice farmers from Seafield, West Coast Berbice.

Those matters were heard by Chancellor (ag) Yonette Cummings-Edwards, while she was Chief Justice (ag) but unfortunately, the decisions in respect of those cases are yet to be delivered.

Nandlall who appeared together with Manoj Narayan, Sasha Mahadeo-Narayan and Rajendra R. Jaigobin in these constitutional proceedings said that at no time were the applicants afforded a hearing by any person or body or authority offering them an opportunity to show cause why their leases should be cancelled, nor were they made aware of the reasons why their leases were cancelled.

After the filing of the relevant affidavits by the AG and MMA-ADA, detailed written and oral arguments were presented to the court by both sides, the statement said.

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