Red House trial delayed by late submission from Nandlall

The sign for the CJRCI being restored at Red House after it was torn down. (December 2016 / Keno George/Stabroek News file photo)

With attorney Anil Nandlall failing to adhere to previously set timelines for laying over legal submissions, commencement of the trial in the challenge mounted by the Cheddi Jagan Research Committee Inc. (CJRI) to the President’s revocation of its lease to Red House has now automatically been further delayed.

When the matter came up for hearing on May 15th before acting Chief Justice Roxane George, attorneys on both sides should have been exchanging submissions as the court had previously ordered.

However, Solicitor General Kim Kyte who represents the Attorney General against whom the action was brought, informed the judge that she had received no submissions from the other side.

Conceding to having filed his submissions late, an apologetic Nandlall then asked the court for time to respond if necessary, to Kyte’s submissions of which he was in receipt.

Though granted his request, Justice George noted the importance of the timelines being adhered to, while adding that because of counsel’s submissions being laid over late, all the other predetermined timelines have been “totally derailed.”

As a result, the new date set for both sides to exchange submissions and respond if necessary, is June 1.

Meanwhile, the matter is returnable for June 19 for any clarifications which the court may need from the submissions made by the attorneys.

“Please abide by the timelines,” the judge urged.

At a case management conference in March, Justice George had set timelines for preliminary hearings ahead of the trial commencing, ordering both sides to lay over written submissions no later than May 7, in which they were to address a number of legal issues raised by the court.

The matter was thereafter set for May 15th for the court to ascertain whether it needed clarification on any other issue. Thereafter, the judge had said that a date was likely to be fixed for the trial to begin. 

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 Commission 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 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 Presaud, 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 Nandlall.

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