I read with great interest the unfortunate Red House saga which I considered very embarrassing. In my view it will cause the two major parties to drift even further apart, with former president Bharrat Jagdeo using extremely harsh words against the David Granger administration, such as “heinous and reprehensible act against Cheddi Jagan and his legacy” and one which was “indecent and callous.”
It is true that that Cheddi Jagan played an extremely important role in Guyana’s history, especially in the pre-independence days, and all Guyanese should respect his sterling and valuable contributions. The current PPP leaders should cherish the enormous work and sacrifices of their founder leader and guard and protect them at all costs, but I am not sure if they have done so. If they truly wanted to have the Red House where Cheddi spent a part of his life, as the headquarters for the Research Centre, they should have ensured that the legal documents were properly in place beyond any doubt whatsoever.
This seems not to be so, because Attorney General Basil Williams in a written opinion pointed out several flaws which render the 99 year lease illegal and unenforceable in law. However his predecessor Anil Nandlall countered stating that Williams was totally wrong and his argument manifestly flawed. He explained that although the power to lease, sell or grant licences in relation to lands which fall under this legislation, resides with the President, there are laws which provide for the President to delegate such a responsibility to the Commissioner of Lands, et al. He also dismissed the contention that the Red House lease is invalid because it was not executed
before a judge, and stressed that state lands are excluded from the norm. He pointed out that thousands of farmers have leases for Crown Lands and never appeared before a judge to execute their leases.
However Nandlall failed to address the important question of the failure to register the lease which is a requirement under section 13 of the Deeds Registry Act (as amended) which states that a lease over 21 years (considered a long lease) must be registered or else it is invalid and cannot be pleaded in court.
The PPP/C moved to the court and the acting Chief Justice Yonette Cummings-Edwards made an ex parte interim order freezing the government instructions that the High Street premises be vacated by December 31. The matter is returnable for February 20, 2017 (incidentally the birth anniversary of Forbes Burnham, founder leader of the PNC) when the Chief Justice will hear legal arguments from attorneys for both the PPP/C and the government to deal with the issue.
Unfortunately hours after the interim order was made, workers from the government removed the signboard and were trying to take possession prematurely. However AG Williams appeared in court at 3 pm and told the acting Chief Justice that the lease had been cancelled for a while and the government had already taken possession. However this contention was swiftly dispelled by Nandlall who provided evidence that the allegation was misleading.
We are in a new year, I beg and implore the politicians and other officials to work in harmony and try to build our nation. Work towards our motto ‒ one people, one nation, one destiny. Best wishes to all for 2017 and onwards.