More Mocha residents seek High Court redress for demolition of houses, damage to property

Last Updated on Friday, 22 September 2023, 20:12 by Denis Chabrol

An excavator among the remains of houses it crushed at Cane View, Mocha in January, 2023

Three more former residents of Cane View, Mocha, East Bank Demerara have asked the High Court to declare that government’s demolition of their homes and destruction of their personal property was illegal and that they should be awarded more than GY$250 million in damages as well as title to the land.

Roxanne Allen, Junior Ellis, and Lashonda Ellis want the High Court to declare that actions by the Central Housing and Planning Authority (CH&PA) and Minister of Housing and Water Collin Croal violated the law and are of no legal effect; resort to self-help to demolish the Applicants’ home and destroy their personal property, infringes their right to natural justice and protection of the law, and violates Article 144 of  Guyana’s Constitution and the International Bill of Human Rights.

They are being represented by lawyers Dr Vivian Williams and Lyndon Amsterdam.

Government crushed the homes and personal items, saying that area was now needed as a reserve for an alternative East Bank Demerara road link.

The Applicants are also contending that the CH&PA and the Housing and Water Minister their servants, agents, and contractors, breaches their  property rights as guaranteed and protected by Article 142 of the Constitution, and that the way the employees, servants, agents and or contractors of CH&PA and the second-named respondent, trespassed and demolished their home without a court order or warrant, infringes the Article 143 of the Constitution of  Guyana which protects the Applicants’ from arbitrary entry of their home.

For the breach of the Constitutional fundamental right to protection from deprivation of property, each applicant is asked the High Court to award GY$100,000 in damages; GY$100,000 for trespass; more than GY$100 million for damage to property at 16 Cane View, Mocha/Herstelling, East Bank Demerara by servants and agents of the government; more than GY$50 million for loss and damage suffered by Allen and the Ellis’ because of the actions of the servants and agents of the government in forcibly removing the applicants from the land, and  GY$100 million for exemplary damages.

Allen and the Ellis’ are also asking the High Court to block the government from conveying, using, occupying, or erecting any structure on 16 Cane View, or further altering the land. Instead, the High Court is being asked to transfer fee simple title to 16 Cane View to Roxanne Allen.

In the court documents seen by Demerara Waves Online News, the applicants say the land is owned by the Guyana Sugar Corporation and CH&PA did not obtain a declaration of the area for slum clearance, and they are entitled to equity for the occupation of the land as recognized and enforced by this court and the wider Commonwealth Caribbean. “It is trite law that if the owner of land encourages or allows an occupant to expend money on the land under an expectation of continued occupation, a licence with equity is created. Further, it is for the court to decide how the equity that accrues to a licensee with equity will be satisfied,” the document states.

They said the CH&PA and or employees, agents, and or servants of the Ministry of Housing and Water made a clear and unambiguous promise to residents of Cane View as a well- defined group, to convey plots of land occupied in Cane View to the respective occupants. In this particular instance, they Allen said this was done for 16 Cane View. It was on that basis, according to the court documents, that Allen constructed her house. “The Applicant acting upon the terms and conditions of the undertaking by the State of Guyana, expended significant funds to build solid and expensive property on the land and invest her life savings.”

Roxanne Allen, who lived for 30 years at the location where she raised her eight children, planted cash crops and reared cattle, recalled that from 1991 to 2021 no one had objected to their use or occupancy 0f the land. Further, that about 1999 or 2001 and 2008/2009 Mr Gladwin Charles of the Central Housing and Planning Authority had promised Cane View residents that the government would regularize Cane View and convey title/transport to residents who are occupying parcels of land.

She said after the survey was done in 2009, the CH&PA and the Ministry of Housing and Water “assigned Lot 16 to the parcel of land my family was occupying.” “CH&PA and the Ministry of Housing and Water painted Lot 16 in red on the front of our home to indicate the lot number for the parcel of land | occupied with my family. Thereafter that parcel of land became known as and is referenced as Lot 16 Cane View,” she said.

“The promises and actions of CH&PA caused me to believe that my prescriptive rights claim would not be contested and conveyance of 16 Cane View to me was a mere administrative process to be completed by the government and that the government was taking the necessary steps,” she said in her affidavit. The woman said she spent about GY$10 million to remodel the front of her house after Mr. Charles from CH&PA promised that title/transport would conveyed to her without contest and steps were taken in furtherance of that promise.

An almost identical case was in August filed by three other persons and c0mes up for first hearing on October 9, 2023 before Chief Justice Roxane George-Wiltshire.