Former Mocha residents challenge removal from land; seek title to land, GY$200 million damages

Last Updated on Saturday, 19 August 2023, 13:40 by Denis Chabrol

Three residents of Mocha are asking the High Court to declare that several of their constitutional rights were violated last January when government crushed their dwellings and other properties and forced them off an area of land near a new East Bank Demerara Road.

Demerara Waves Online News understands that if the three applicants win this case, the judgement will apply to all 36 families a number of whom are likely to be added to this matter.

In the lawsuit that comes up before Chief Justice Roxane George-Wiltshire on October 9, 2023, Mark Gordon, Shenila Simpson and Lucrecia George also want the High Court to find that a 2011 amendment to the Title of Land Act does not affect any prescriptive right in favour of Mr Gordon before that amendment took effect.

“The first named Applicant has prescriptive rights that accrue before the 2011 amendment of the Title to Land Act that were not extinguished by any retroactive or retrospective effect from the passage of the Act: or the first named Applicant acquired a license with equity to 11 Cane View on account of the expenditure of significant funds to build a substantial structure on the land with the awareness, acquiescence, and encouragement of  CH&PA and the Ministry of Housing and Water, and without their objection: or the first named Applicant had a substantive legitimate expectation to conveyance of transported title to the land because the respondents, their servants, employees, and or agents promised to convey title to the land to the applicant and took positive steps in furtherance of the promise,” the court document states.

Further, the court action seeks an order of prohibition enjoining Attorney General Anil Nandlall, Minister of Housing and Water Collin Croal and the Guyana Sugar Corporation from conveying, using, occupying, or erecting any structure on 11 Cane View, or further altering the land.

Through their Attorneys-at-Law Dr Vivian Williams and Lyndon Amsterdam, the High Court is being asked to order the Minister of Housing and Water to transfer permanent and absolute ownership of 11 Cane View to  Mr Gordon. In that regard, under joinder for other relief, the lawyers also applied to the High Court for a declaration that Mr Gordin is the permanent and absolute owner of 11 Cane View by operation of law or the conduct and interactions between him and and employees, servants and agents of the Central Housing and Planning Authority (CH&PA) created a licence with equity in favour of him with respect to the land identified as 11 Cane View, Mocha/Herstelling, East Bank Demerara, which remained in force and effect at the time the respondent demolished the applicants’ home.

In terms of the award of damages, the trio is asking for an award of more than GY$100 thousand for trespass to their property by the Minister of Housing and Water, CH&PA and or their agents, servants, or contractors on or about January 5, 2023; more than GY$100 million for damage to property at the land known as 11 Cane View, Mocha/Herstelling, East Bank Demerara by servants and agents of the Government of Guyana on or about January 5, 2023; more than GY$50 million for loss and damage suffered by Gordon, Simpson and George because of the actions of the servants and agents of the Government of Guyana in forcibly removing Gordon and his family from the land known as and referred to as 11 Cane View, Mocha/Herstelling, East Bank Demerara, and an award of more than GY$100 million.

The High Court is also being asked to declare that the CH&PA took action beyond its legal power or authority and in violation of its mandate, are unlawful and invalid; the CH&PA and the Housing and Water  Minister’s resort to self-help to demolish the applicants’ homes and destroy their personal property, infringes their right to natural justice and protection of the law as guaranteed and protected by Article 144 of Guyana’s Constitution and the International Bill of Human Rights, and the conduct of CH&PA and the Housing and Water Minister, their servants, agents and contractors, breached the applicants’ property rights as guaranteed and protected by Article 142 of Guyana’s Constitution. 

The court documents detail the smashing of a home, burial of the debris with mud, loss of crucial medication that caused significant deterioration of health and the killing of two specially bred pet dogs, loss garden and death of livestock and poultry totalling more than GY$200 million.

 Other declarations being sought are that the way employees, servants, agents and or contractors of CH&PA and the second-named respondent, trespassed and demolished the applicants’ home without a court order or warrant, infringes the applicants’ right against arbitrary entry of their home, guaranteed by Article 143 of the Constitution; infringement of the applicants’ protection from inhuman and degrading treatment guaranteed by Article 141(1) of the constitution; that a declaration that Article 141(1) of Guyana’s constitution placed a positive obligation on the State to prevent ill-treatment and debasement of a citizen of Guyana in resolving disputes over occupation and ownership of government or State land regardless of whether ownership of the land is resolved in the government’s favor.

 Grounds for the court action are that neither the CH&PA nor the Minister of Housing and Water was the holder of legal title or vested with authority over Cane View; GUYSUCO had actual or constructive knowledge of the representations and actions of CH&PA pertaining to Cane View and did not object or intervene to prevent the harm the Applicants suffered; that the CH&PA Act  limits the power of that Authority to demolish buildings, to areas declared slum clearance areas and sets forth the procedure that must be followed. However, ther court papers say that Cane View was never declared a slum clearance area and so CH&PA never acquired the authority to issue a demolition order for that area.