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President revokes Red House lease; Cheddi Jagan Research Centre ordered to remove by Old Year’s Day

Red House

President David Granger has ordered that the lease for the building known as The Red House to the Cheddi Jagan Research Centre Incorporated (CJRCI) be revoked and that the occupants vacate the property by December 31, 2016, the Ministry of the Presidency announced.

“Having carefully considered the advice of the Minister of Legal Affairs, President Granger has concluded that it would be in the public’s interest for the lease issued to the CJRCI to be revoked and has also directed the Minister of State that the building be assigned to house “The National Trust of Guyana, its staff, stores and equipment”, currently housed in the Valerie Rodway Building on Carmichael Street, with effect from January 1, 2017, where it would be better able to fulfill its mandate to preserve Guyana’s national patrimony and to promote an appreciation for the nation’s heritage,” the Ministry of the Presidency said.

The Head of State handed down these instructions Thursday in a letter to Minister of State, Mr. Joseph Harmon, more than one year after the Coalition Government had engaged the CJRCI on the matter of the lease.  This engagement included negotiations for The Red House to provide a national service by housing information on all of the Presidents of Guyana.  Those negotiations proved futile and in an invited comment, Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs, Mr. Basil Williams said that after discussions broke down, he sought to determine the legality of the lease agreement.

Government said the National Trust would be relocated from a building adjacent to State House on Carmichael Street to Red House after the CJRC vacates the property.

Currently, offices of the Ministry of the Presidency, including its Communication Section, are housed at the National Trust building. 

Red House, which was once the official residence of then Premier and People’s Progressive Party (PPP) Founder-Leader, Dr. Cheddi Jagan, houses several of his works and is used by that party for panel discussions and other events.

The Valerie Rodway Building on Carmichael Street, Georgetown that houses the National Trust.

In a statement issued on Wednesday, December 28, 2016, Minister Williams said his investigations revealed that the lease held by the CJRCI is invalid on several grounds, including that there is no evidence that the President of the day had sanctioned it. On March 30, 2012 The Red House lease agreement was initiated without the approval of either the President of the Day or The National Trust of Guyana, which is in contravention of Section 10 of the Lands Department Act Chapter 59:01, rendering it void. The statement also said that on March 21, 2000, the CJRCI was incorporated as “a not-for-profit company” by late former President Janet Jagan, her daughter Ms. Nadira Jagan-Brancier and former President Donald Ramotar, who was then the General Secretary of the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C), with the aim of establishing a library and research facility to contain the works and documents owned by the late President Cheddi Jagan.

In that same year, the lease agreement among the parties; the Government of Guyana, The National Trust of Guyana and the CJRCI was drawn up but not executed. The Attorney General further said that on May 3, 2006 Mr. Ramotar applied to the Commissioner of Lands and Surveys (CL&S) for a lease of the property, which comprises Lots 65, 66 and 67 High Street, Kingston, Georgetown, on behalf of the CJRCI but although a file had been opened in the Guyana Lands and Surveys Commission (GL&SC), approval had not been granted. The application was then resubmitted on August 30, 2010, on a revised schedule, to the then Office of the President. On January 11, 2011, the resubmitted application was also not approved as there is no evidence of any signature of the President of the Day on the purported schedule, only those of Mr. Doorga Persaud, the then CL&S, and the Manager of Land Administration, Mr. Enrique Monize.

However, on March 30, 2012, a lease entered by the CL&S on behalf of the Government of Guyana, and by Mr. Ralph Ramkarran, S.C., on behalf of the CJRCI, was issued under Section 10 of the Lands Department Act, Chapter 59:01 for property with a duration of 99 years, commencing on January 1, 2012 at an annual rental of $12,000 for the first three years, and with the proviso that the Government could revise the annual rent payable at the end of every three years.

In the statement, the Attorney General said that the 99-year lease “was not executed in the manner of a transport, that is advertised and passed before the Court, nor was it filed as of record and annotation made against the Property by the Registrar of Deeds.” The statement further noted that in Section 4 of the State Lands Act Chapter 62:01 said that State Lands can only be converted into Government Lands with the sanction of the President of the Day and on the terms and conditions determined by this office bearer and there is no formal evidence of sanction or approval by the then President.

The Red House is established in The National Trust of Guyana Monuments Register as a Public Building/National Monument/Heritage Site. The Trust was established under The National Trust Act Chapter 20:03 Laws of Guyana, which is an “Act to make provision for the preservation of monuments, sites, places and objects of historic interest or national importance”. Its main responsibility is the preservation of all monuments of Guyana, which under the Act includes “any building, structure or object or other work of man…”  The National Trust also “shall not transfer, mortgage, lease, charge or dispose of any land without the approval of the Minister,” according to its webpage.

The Attorney General maintains that all the parties knew that The Red House “at all material times was a heritage site, both building and lands under the National Trust Act Chapter 20:03”. Further, the CL&S is the custodian of all Government Lands…”that is why there must be evidence of the President approving leases under Section 10 of the Lands Department Act Chapter 59:01”.

On August 21, 2015, Minister Harmon, in his Budget presentation, had told the Parliament that the PPP/C had privatised the CJRCI and had been leasing the property for a mere $1,000 per month. The Minister had also noted that while in government, the PPP/C Administration had spent large sums renovating The Red House, a property of the State until 2012, then renamed it CJRCI. Minister Harmon had also said that all the sitting executives of the CJRCI are all connected to the PPP/C party and that discussions between the government and the CJRCI and others on the matter had been futile.

  • Phil Brooks

    “We run things now”…

    • Emile_Mervin

      Revocation is in order! When the other side ran things…we ended up with the Red House debacle.

      • Col123

        Is that the do foh do nah obeah/voodoo approach to governance?… the end product after that ritual is usually toxic and without relief to participants … except for the sacrificed fowl cock and white rum!…

        • Emile_Mervin

          This is not do-fuh-do; this is righting a wrong. You full well know that no state government in America can take a state-owned building and ‘gift it’ to the political party running the government.

          • Col123

            Your conclusion is an entrapment…there are several US Presidential libraries/museums which are dedicated to various political party Presidents..whether those buildings were in existence or built is in the orange and apple category… the Red House issue is rather similar. I really don’t care about this issue…it is the lack of will in all to bring this country together and move forward. Granger had an ace here to negotiate and engage the opposition… he blew it!.,,

          • Emile_Mervin

            COI,
            You did not elucidate on your ‘entrapment’ charge, and your US presidential libraries/museums reference lacks coherence in search of relevance. However, for you to claim Granger had an ace here and blew it is misleading. Read paragraph 3 where it pellucidly states ‘more than a year after…’ the talks or negotiations started, the decision was finally arrived at yesterday to evict.

            Relatively speaking, your publicized concern about ‘bringing the country together ‘ falls flat, because in the same paragraph 3, the Coalition was willing to let the PPP retain use of the building if the building can serve all past Presidents and not just Cheddie Jagan. If anyone blew a golden opportunity it has to be Bharrat Jagdeo, the greedy blowhard.

          • Col123

            Those US Presidential Libraries/Museums receive subventions from the Feds, State and City/county governments…thus your cover to make a point….your point….so where is does it lack relevance…Negotiations can take years..swinging a punch at your opponents requires that you take years of training..planning and execution to score a knockout …this blow is just a temporary setback for the PPP and Jagdeo…not a knockout!… and adds to their value in the eyes of their support…however you may want determine that value!…

          • Emile_Mervin

            COI,

            There’s a big difference between presidential libraries or museums receiving federal subventions, on one hand, and government buildings that house libraries or museums being illegally acquired for partisan reasons, on another hand. You are missing the key point here, which is, that the Coalition is taking back state property that was illegally acquired for politically partisan use. There was no need for years of negotiations here if the Coalition simply and plainly stated it was willing to let Red House serve as a presidential library for all former presidents and not just Cheddie. It was a yes or no issue, and you don’t need a year or more for a requisite answer. Jagdeo blew it in his usual arrogance!

            Personally, I don’t care if it is a temporary or long-term setback for Jagdeo and the PPP, or if the party faithful will rally around the issue. This is an issue of principle and fairness, and the PPP refused to play fair…to date. It has today and tomorrow to come to its senses, or pack up and move or watch as the state packs up its Georgie bundle.

          • Col123

            With all said, the legality of its use and the means acquiring it will determine its future use. .. the question still remains as to what was gained by the coalition by revoking the lease?…..will have limited internet access for six weeks.. so HAPPY, Healthy and Safe 2017..

  • ExPPP_Man

    I wonder what the “Jaganites” Haramie Nagatamootoo, Rumjattan and so on are.

    • Emile_Mervin

      People! Humans! Jagan would never have approved of this skulduggery in his name. Check his lifestyle.

      • ExPPP_Man

        Ya’ll run things now. Time to divide Guyana into 3, Berbice, Demerara and Essequibo. This level of racism is even worst than that of the father of racism, forbes burnham.

        • pollard

          since when wrong is right?according to the document their is no lease.they were/are squatters.and they abuse the tax payers monies.

        • EvanPersaud

          Where is Ravi Dev? Where is Ryhaan Shah? Where is Baytoram Ramharack? Where is Sasenarine Singh?

        • EvanPersaud

          Where is Yisu Persaud? Where is David Dabydeen? Where is Clem Seecharran? Where is Basdeo Mangru?

        • Emile_Mervin

          You’re the one who said to divide Guyana into three, which is the premise for destruction, for a house divided against itself cannot stand. Racism is only prevalent in Guyana at the political level, sir, because if you take a bird’s eye view of the ground situation or even interact casually with the people, you will find that people of different races get along for the most part.

          • ExPPP_Man

            I will never sit at the same table with you though…
            NEVER

          • Emile_Mervin

            Ex-whatever, this is a discussion forum, not a dating site. Geesh!!!

  • Col123

    Temporary feel good reaction vs strategic political ignorance?…in a 51/49 divided society!…My thought is that winning is not everything …. Grangie is duplicating the political errors of his predecessors…and folks wonder why Freddie said that Guyana is a pit latrine!…someone should take away that shovel from Grangie…

  • Col123

    This is a Guyanese thing…I have seen worse, especially in civil war torn countries where I was involved in rebuilding , after we tore it up…although it may wreak of illegality, it is in the right place… the court… . We have laws ..let it take its course. Granger missed an opportunity at bringing goodwill..and he as a Christian at that, surprised me..that is my take in a nutshell…and I am sorry that you are stupid… have a great year..cheers!

  • Col123

    Hey boy..my vegetarian friend…sipping on cows , donkeys and mother’s milk?…bad news… those milk are packed with animal protein…. but you can argue that those animals are vegetarian also..cheers for the new year..

  • Col123

    LL…a lawyer I’m not.. my specialty is in health care delivery with a military slant…I don’t take blogging seriously, but enjoy the healthy benefits of engaging social media.. and there are benefits to occupy older folks like me.. there… enough not to judge me and my interests…