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Red House must be research centre for all presidents- Attorney General

Red House which houses the Cheddi Jagan Research Centre.

Attorney General, Basil Williams on Wednesday said government has proposed that Red House becomes a research centre for all of Guyana’s presidents, as talks begin on addressing what he termed an illegal lease transaction.

Williams said one week ago he held talks with Senior Counsel Ralph Ramkarran and People’s Progressive Party (PPP) Executive Member, Hydar Ally who are directors of Cheddi Jagan Research Inc.

“The land has to be returned to the State and the question of the building itself- the building ought not to be used only for the late President Cheddi Jagan. We have other past presidents. I mentioned all the past presidents should really be dealt with at that building,” he told a news conference.

Asked if there would be no criminal charges, the Attorney General noted that Guyana has a plea bargaining act but when pressed on the applicability of that law and whether it should not be a role for the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), he said he was only addressing the issue of civil liability.

Williams charged that the lease arrangement was used a veil under which Red House is being leased for GUY$1,000 per year for 99 years. “The lease arrangement was a device to really hide from the eyes of equity the true nature of the transaction that is a sale or giveaway of the land,” he said.

The Attorney General contended that the lease was used to charge a “peppercorn rent” instead of millions of dollars.

Pressed on what made the Red House lease illegal, Williams said there was prior knowledge by then public office-holders to exercise their functions to the benefit of Guyana and its citizens. “It’s misconduct in public office for the criminal office side and misfeasance in public office on the civil side,” he said.

The Attorney General and Senior Counsel  Ralph Ramkarran both declined to say whether there was a willingness by the directors of the Cheddi Jagan Research Inc. to allow the building to be used as a research centre for all the Presidents of Guyana. “The position of our administration is that the Red House , which is State property, cannot be used solely as a research centre for one president.

Guyana’s Presidents are late Arthur Chung (a largely titular office holder), Forbes Burnham, Desmond Hoyte Cheddi Jagan, Janet Jagan (all deceased) , Samuel Hinds, Bharrat Jagdeo and Donald Ramotar.