The recent charges made against Dr. Ashni Singh and Mr. Winston Brassington have once more demonstrated that our country is deteriorating very fast. Not just the economy, but the growing fear and the obvious injustice that has come to characterize this PNCR-led APNU+AFC regime. The charges against these two gentlemen relate to three parcels of land at Turkeyen/Liliendaal.
The land north of the Railway Embankment road was originally sold by the PNC Government. This case has its origins in 1977. At that time, the PNC regime acquired seventy acres of land owned by the James family and the Jainarinesingh family. It was taken over without any compensation. In addition to the seventy acres there was another thirty-acre plot of land owned by the state. The land was never developed. In the late 1980s, the PNC government, led by Desmond Hoyte, sold the land to Toolsie Persaud Limited (TPL) for one million, seven hundred thousand dollars ($1.7M). TPL paid a small down payment and no more. The James and Jainarinesingh families challenged the sale. Toolsie Persaud eventually took the matter all the way to the Caribbean Court of Justice.
During these actions, the government changed in October 1992. The PPP/C government joined the two families and pursued this case vigorously. Eventually it won portions of the case. On that basis it began to set-up developmental projects in the area.
Part of that land was earmarked to build a state-of-the-art Specialty Hospital. That project was identified to provide world class service to treat all major illnesses. The Guyanese population would have benefitted greatly in the first place. No one would have had to travel abroad for treatment of illnesses that they now do. The ordinary working people would have had medical services at international standards made affordable to them. It was intended to provide these services to the Guyanese Diaspora and to the people of the region. A new form of tourism was envisaged to have emerged. Unfortunately, this project was one of the first that the APNU+AFC regime jettisoned.
I will now address the three parcels of land that Singh and Brassington are charged with.
First, the 100 acres of land sold to NHL for close to $600M. This land was advertised widely with over 17 persons purchasing tender packages. The tenders were opened in the presence of someone from the Auditor General’s office. The matter was approved by Cabinet. The developer was sold the plot of land for some five million dollars ($5M) per acre. This was what the market produced. All costs to develop the land were that of the developer.
That second plot of land totalling some 4.5 acres was sold to the main shareholder of RUSAL at a premium price of almost $25M per acre. This land sale was negotiated but represented the highest price paid for any piece of land sold south of the Railway Embankment. The buyer again would need to put in the infrastructure at his/her cost. At the time of the sale, the sale price was considered extremely high and was above comparable pricing for similar land at the time. This sale was again approved by Cabinet.
The third plot of land totalling 10 acres, located north of the Railway Embankment road, immediately north of a line of squatters, next to the site earmarked for the Specialty Hospital, was sold to a company from Trinidad and Tobago to develop a complex similar to what it did in Trinidad and Tobago, MovieTowne. The land was sold for close to twenty million dollars ($20M) per acre. Again this land sale was approved by Cabinet. Today the company is spending close to US$40M to develop the land and to add to our stock of assets. Hundreds of jobs would be created there too.
One can see how different the land prices are under the PPP as compared to the PNC. These were only parts of the lands that the PNC regime sold to Toolsie Persaud Limited for the pittance of one million, seven hundred thousand dollars. Just look at the difference. On a per acre basis, the PPP/C sold the land at over 100 times the price sold to TPL. It is like comparing cheese and chalk.
A comparison with the performance of the Hoyte-led PNC regime which sold some one hundred acres to TPL for one million, seven hundred thousand dollars ($1.7M) and got a meagre down payment of two hundred thousand dollars ($200,000), to NICIL getting as high as thirty million dollars ($30M) per acre and lowest of five million ($5M) per acre will confirm the whole unjust and discriminatory nature of this latest version of the PNC regime.
In 2015 the PPP/C lost office and the PNCR-led APNU+AFC took charge. The change was fortuitous for Toolsie Persaud Limited. Using a technicality TPL once more went to the Courts in Guyana. Low and behold the judge ruled that TPL should be paid $1.7B as damages. Moreover, he ordered that interest be paid to TPL. This must be a record amount awarded to anyone for similar cases.
What is clear is that the excuse to charge and handcuff Singh and Brassington and put them on exorbitant bail have been excessively harsh. Many believe that it is political vendetta and racism that have characterized this regime’s dealings.
Ashni Singh and Winston Brassington both gave sterling service to this country. They should have been considered for national awards instead of being attacked viciously by a military-style dictatorship. The mask is off!