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High Court asked to scrap land sales at Pradoville2, hand them back to the State

Former President Bharrat Jagdeo’s house at Pradoville 2.

Legal moves have begun for the State to repossess lands at ‘Pradoville2’ because several rules have been broken or bypassed to develop the lands using State funds and sell them cheaply to Former President Bharrat Jagdeo and other past and current government functionaries  who have then gone on to build multi-million dollar houses.

In at least two cases, two former government ministers have bought the lands for just about GUY$1 million, constructed houses and resold them for between GUY$90 million and GUY$100 million.

Former parliamentarian, Desmond Trotman and the Committee for the Defence of the Constitution Inc say in High Court papers that they want an order setting aside the purported sale and transfer to the the lands at Goedverwagting and Sparendaam and that they be put in the hands of the Finance Minister.

“A mandatory order directed to each of the putative owners of the said parcels of land that the legal and beneficial ownership of the said parcels of land purported to be sold and transferred to them by order of the Cabinet shall forthwith vest in the Minister of Finance to be held on behalf of the State,”  the plaintiffs state.

They contend that the wider Guyanese community were not afforded equal opportunity to apply for those state lands in violation of Guyana’s Constitution.

The applicants want the High Court to declare that  the surreptitious sale and transfer of the said fully developed parcels of State lands by the Executive at undervalued prices for parcels 238 to 247 Plantation Goedverwagting and parcels 173 to 196 Plantation Sparendaam, East Coast Demerara to “ministers of the government, government officials, friends and cronies of the People’s Progressive Party (hereafter the parcel holders) without any recourse to a valuation or tender procedure  or an invitation to the public that such lands are for sale is a wrongful and unlawful grant of facilities and benefits, a brazen and flagrant infringement of the applicants’ and the citizens’ right to equality before the law.”

Trotman and the Committee for the Defence of the Constitution Inc also want the High Court to find that the actions of Cabinet to acquire titles for the land at ‘Pradoville2’ amounted to “an abuse of power by the Executive in contravention of the Applicants’ and the people’s fundamental right to equality before the law.”

Saying that the legal proceedings have been instituted in the public interest and on their own behalf of the people and citizens of Guyana, Trotman and the Committee for the Defence of the Constitution Inc state in court papers that the then government of President Bharrat Jagdeo and his  ministerial  cabinet “covertly conceived clandestinely to develop without parliamentary knowledge or approval” the two pieces of State lands at Sparendaam and Goedverwagting.

The applicants charged that then Finance Minister Ashni Singh “wrongfully and unlawfully” authorized the National Industrial and Commercial Investments Limited to take moneys collected by government corporations and other wholly owned government  companies such as the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission, Guyana Forestry Commission and Guyana Oil Company  to develop the lands at Sparendaam and Goedverwagting. The applicants said those works included the construction of roads and drains, installation of water mains, electrical lines and the removal of a 300-feet tall tower owned by the National Communications Network from the lands and install them at Parfaite Harmonie, West Bank Demerara. “No money was authorized by Parliament for the development of the said project,” said Trotman and the Committee in Defence of the Constitution Inc.

The applicants further state that NICIL Director, Winston Brassington  directed Sworn Land Surveyor Shabeer Ali on July 2010 to survey and paal off the lands.

They said that Cabinet’s appointment of NICIL in the development of the project was “unlawful and void” because that should have been the responsibility of the Plaisance/Industry Neighbourhood Democratic Council, the Town and Country Planning, and Central Housing and Planning Authority (CHPA). “The development of the said project was carried out without the approval of Parliament or any of the Statutory Agencies…The pricing and allocations of the said lands were not done by the CHPA and were not under their control, though payments were made to the CHPA if the sums stated on the Certificates of Title.

The applicants in the High Court case also accompanied their application with evidence showing that Manickchand and Persaud made hefty profits from sale of those lands and houses.  On February 21, 2013, Manickchand sold her land, building and erections for GUY$100 million to David Narine and on August 23, 2012 Persaud sold his land, building and erections to LSR Inc for GUY$90 million.

By September 2010,  parcels each measuring 0.3030 of an acre were sold to Robert Persaud, Shaik Baksh, Clement Rohee, Lisaveta Ramotar, Dr. Compton Bourne and Priya Manickchand for GUY$1,515,000. In the case of Jagdeo, he purchased 0.4603 of an acre for GUY$2,301,500 and 1.5 acres for GUY$7.5 million. Jennifer Westford bought 0.3186 of an acre for GUY$1,593,000 and G.Singh and wife paid GUY$1,502,000 for 0.3005 of an acre.

The applicants listed the following known supporters of the People’s Progressive Party and government employees who benefitted from “government’s largesse” :  Andrew Ranji Bishop, Florrie Loretta Ramnauth, Rajendra Singh (former Chief Executive Officer of the Guyana Sugar Corporation ), Safraz Khan, and Ramesh Dookhoo who each purchased 0.3005 of an acre for GUY$1,502,000. Others are George Hallaq and Nada Hallaq who paid GUY$5 million for 0.8422 of an acre, and Future Developers International(Guyana) Inc whose sole director is Dr. Rajendra Singh purchased 0.5534 of an acre for GUY$3 million.

Moeenul Hack and the Director of Public Prosecutions, Shalimar Hack paid GUY$1,488,744 for 0.2767 of an acre, and then Chief of staff of the Guyana Defence Force purchased 0.3005 of an acre for GUY$1,502,500.

Representing the applicants are lawyers Rex Mc Kay, Neil Boston, Bettina Glasford and Brenden Glasford.