I am in legal possession of land claimed by Joan Straughn

Dear Editor,

I would like to respond to claims made by Joan Straughn at last Wednesday’s Commission of Inquiry (CoI) into African ancestral land matters, that her family was dispossessed of lands under former President Bharrat Jagdeo, and handed to me.

Ms Straughn said that in March of 2000, former President Jagdeo caused her family’s land at Parika, East Bank Essequibo (EBE), to be taken away and given to me, the owner of Two Brothers Gas Station. According to Ms Straughn, the land which was leased to me, contained a parcel which legitimately belongs to her family as well as a section of the sea defence reserve that provides access to it.

Ms Straughn told the commission that the land in question was given to me by the Sea Defence Board (SDB) in 2009. I am now in the process of building a bulk fuel storage area, a project that has since been approved by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) after having met all their requirements. I have all the legal documentation for the land that is being claimed by Ms Straughn and I am willing to make it available to the commission.

The claim that Mr Jagdeo gave me the land was preposterous, since I was never friendly with the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) administration, given my well-known support of the People’s National Congress (PNC), long before Mr Jagdeo could even hold a ministerial position or was even born.

Ms Straughn told the CoI that they had spent in excess of $10M battling me, but it would have been fitting if she had been truthful behind the fight for the piece of land owned by me. On August 12, 2010 in the High Court of the Supreme Court of  Judicature, before Chief Justice Ian Chang, I won a case against Violet Baptist, Garfield Strans and Guy Gold Inc, with the Chief Justice throwing out an injunction secured by the aforementioned.

On January 6, 2011, Chief Justice Ian Chang ordered the case by Ms Straughn, this time by her Power of Attorney Mark Levy, “deemed abandoned and incapable of being revived.”

Upon being granted the lease by the Sea Defence Board, I had to satisfy a number of requirements of the board, one of which was ensuring that the sea defence is kept. I’ve spent millions to meet the Sea Defence Board and the Environmental Protection Agency’s requisites for the land and the High Court ruling against the Straughns’ injunction reinforces the legality of the land belonging to me.

I maintain my desire to appear before the CoI once called upon, with all the required and legal documentation. I also maintain my non-alliance to the PPP or moreso former President Jagdeo.

I was also accused by Norman Dalrymple, Secretary of the Vergenoegen Agri Producers Co-Op Society Limited, of claiming their land. Mr Dalrymple told the CoI that the Agri Producers Co-Op Society had experienced “government interference and racism” under Jagdeo’s rule of Guyana, alleging that I had a political connection.

Let it be known, that I categorically deny and refute Mr Dalrymple’s statements, which are slanderous since it is a well-known fact that I am not friendly with the PPP.

Since 1987, I had been granted legal permission by the Government of Guyana, which is documented, to occupy the land for cattle grazing purposes, something I am still doing until this day. In 1995 Justice Burch-Smith ruled against the Ankoko Sugar producers Co-op Society, in a case that had been before the High Court since 1991. In fact, the Ankoko Sugar producers Co-op Society (now the Vergenoegen Agri Producers Co-op Society Limited) was ordered to pay me $10,000 after the matter was dismissed for the now contested land.

I maintain that I have always followed the legal process when conducting business, and that under the PPP, moreso that of Mr Jagdeo, I had faced several uphill tasks, especially with the establishment of Two Brothers Gas station, because of my political affiliation with the PNC.

Yours faithfully,

Shiraz Ali

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