Land decision is a cause for concern

Dear Editor,

The recent landmark rulings in relation to No 40 and Seafield by Chief Justice (ag) Roxane George whereby President David Granger has been deemed to have acted unconstitutionally and unlawfully are cause for concern. As a layman, I am not the competent person to look at the legal aspects, but I have been a resident of this community for just over 60 years and I have intimate knowledge of all the issues relating to these lands. As a former school teacher and a Tutor with the Institute of Distance and Continuing Education (UG); a community leader; and a middle management employee of MMA/ADA for several years I feel compelled to offer my two bits on these rulings for the third time in two months.

In my humble opinion, the rulings seem lacking in an investigative element. A cursory check would have revealed that the leases granted by former President Donald Ramotar are for lands that have been occupied by two registered Co-operative Societies for over three decades. These Co-operative Societies remain registered. The Seafield Co-operative Land Society Ltd Reg. No. 1720  and No. 40 Farmers Co-operative Society Reg. No. 1513 have developed, maintained and paid for these lands through the decades up to the time they were arbitrarily seized from them and given out to other individuals in the form of 50 year leases.  The actions of Mr Ramotar’s  administration have resulted in deep social acrimony amongst villagers; numerous police interventions, enormous legal costs and a legacy of discord in our villages. Moreover, by these actions, Mr Ramotar’s administration seems to have violated the MMA/ADA Act 69:11which defines its relationship with entities and institutions in the Region and does not in any way allow for the MMA to tamper with the operations of these entities/ institutions (MMA Act 69:11;4 (1) h; Sec. 21(1,2,3).The Co-op Act, Laws of Guyana Chapter 88:01. Sec. 38 (1) to 46(3) as well as our Constitution, Articles 11 and 16). All these seem to have been violated by the MMA and the administration of Mr Ramotar. However, it is President Granger who sought to correct these injustices and unlawful acts and has been deemed to have acted unlawfully and unconstitutionally.

But do judges investigate prior to giving their rulings?  My recent experience with Justice Melissa Robertson shows that some do. Appearing before her as the power of attorney for two overseas based Guyanese on land issues, was very timely and educational. One case had to do with the granting of transport for an individual whose parent had died intestate. The other had to do with a parcel of land occupied by a family for decades, but another family had valid transport for all the lands in as many decades.

The cases were subjected to some of the most rigid examinations and investigations, both into the current status and the history of the lands. All documents were examined and questioned. And most astoundingly, the Judge made a site visit to verify some of the information given to her. This was after either one or both attorneys made the request. It was a marvel to see the Judge arriving in an ordinary hire car with a few of her staff to do a site visit. On arrival she questioned “Do I have to put on long boots?” To which we replied, “No Justice, you don’t have to.” Imagine, a judge prepared to put on long boots to get it right!

Mr Robert Corbin former opposition leader and Mr Ramesh Rajkumar are the attorneys in one of the cases mentioned. They can verify. Now these plots of lands are less than one acre each. Juxtapose the above-mentioned cases with that of the two Co-op Societies with an average of 800 acres combined. Certainly had there been some questioning of the history of the lands under consideration and the legitimacy of the actions of Mr Ramotar in issuing those leases then our current President, Mr Granger, would not have been deemed to have acted unlawfully and unconstitutionally.

Unsurprisingly, the MMA that was a part of the writ served on the Attorney General did not contribute to the defence of the actions of the President. The MMA was a key element in the seizing of the Co-ops lands, yet there is nothing in the case that refers to a submission by MMA. With the state attorneys appearing less than familiar with the whole matter, former Attorney General Mr Anil Nandlall and his team could not have had it better.

It must be mentioned that our lands were seized just prior to the holding of Regional and General elections in 2015, and a senior functionary of MMA/ADA  is alleged to have campaigned on behalf the then ruling party both in the 2011 and 2015 Regional and General elections, contrary to public service rules. That same official is the one who should have supplied the Attorney General chambers with the relevant information in defence of the President’s actions, but this seems not to have happened. Now put the pieces together and read between the lines and you will see why the Attorney General chambers lost two cases in a row to the former attorney general with complete ease. Oh, for the complexity and cunning of our political and judicial reality.

Editor, I am not attempting to do PR work for the government; I am not nearly qualified enough. But I am conscious of the truism that a lie told often enough becomes the truth. In the meantime, I am publicly inviting socio-political commentators, the likes of Mr Federick Kissoon, Dr David Hinds, Mr Tacuma Ogunseye, Mr Lincoln Lewis and others to assess former President Mr Donald Ramotar’s diametrically opposed actions in the Villages of Cotton Tree, Rampur and Shieldstown as against that in No. 40 and Seafield Villages. I would like them to also look at the reasons why the former President would take away half  of the small landholdings of a mother of six children (at the time, five at school from nursery to secondary, and the eldest just starting teachers’ college) despite her personal pleadings to him and senior MMA officials. Also, why would the former President give 15 acres or 60% of another farmer’s holding to a family that already had over 100 acres of state land?

Yours faithfully,

Patrick Hamilton      

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