Timelines set for preliminaries leading up to trial over Red House

Red House (Stabroek News file photo)

A case management conference was yesterday morning held to set timelines for preliminary hearings ahead of the trial commencing in the challenge mounted by the Cheddi Jagan Research Committee Inc. (CJRI) to the President’s revocation of its lease to Red House.

To this end, acting Chief Justice Roxane George SC, who is presiding over the matter, has ordered both sides to lay over written submissions no later than May 7, addressing a number of legal issues raised by the court.

The matter is then returnable for May 16 when the court will ascertain whether it needs further clarifications on any other issue.

Thereafter, a date is likely to be fixed for commencement of trial.

On December 30, 2016 CJRCI secured an order from the court against government’s revocation of its lease. The conservatory order operated to freeze the government’s instruction that the High Street premises be vacated the very next day.

The CJRCI subsequently instituted legal proceedings against the state in which a number of interlocutory applications were heard; at the end of which the Chief Justice ruled that a full trial was needed to determine the challenge.

In her ruling of August 9 last year, the judge also ordered that the Research Centre be allowed occupancy of the historic Red House and the enjoyment of the status quo, until after the trial.

The Government had given its undertaking to comply with the order.

The order prevents and restrains it and its agents from evicting the CJRCI or its agents from Red House on High Street,  or in any manner whatsoever interfering with their occupation or peaceful and quiet enjoyment of the property, until the hearing and determination of the case, or until further order from the court.

Additionally, the order prevents the Government from removing any documents, photographs, artifacts, souvenirs, furniture, fixtures and fittings, appliances and/or any other movable property from the premises, until the matter has been heard or unless the court orders otherwise.

Former President Donald Ramotar had previously said that while he was president, he authorized and sanctioned the issuance of the lease of Red House to the CJRCI.

Attorney General (AG) Basil Williams has, however, contended that contrary to what the CJRCI had advanced, there is no evidence of formal approval or sanction by Ramotar at that time.

Williams had previously said that on May 3, 2006, Ramotar, on behalf of the CJRCI made an application to the Commissioner of Lands and Surveys for a lease of the Red House lands. In 2010, he said that a resubmission of the application was made to the then Office of the President.

All matters relating to an application for a lease, Williams had said, are required to be sequentially recorded on note sheets in the case file; but noted that in the instant case, this was not done.

The AG had gone on to state, that on January 11, 2011, a further resubmission was made but there is no evidence of any sanction by then President Bharrat Jagdeo on the purported schedule—only those of Doorga Persaud, Commissioner of Lands and Surveys and the Land Administration Manager.

Williams had said that on March 30, 2012, however, a lease agreement was completed between Persaud, Commissioner of Lands and Surveys on behalf of the Government and Ralph Ramkarran SC, on behalf of the CJRCI.

According to the AG, non-sanction by the president renders the purported lease void from the outset and having no legal effect. He said it would therefore be incapable of constitutional protection, making the CJRCI, trespassers.

In 2016 President David Granger announced that the lease held by the Research Centre to the heritage building would be revoked.

CJRCI is being represented by former Attorney General Anil Nandlall.

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