GUYSUCO says Central Housing & Planning Authority does not own Mocha lands from which residents were evicted

Last Updated on Wednesday, 4 October 2023, 8:03 by Denis Chabrol

The State-owned Guyana Sugar Corporation (GUYSUCO) says it owns the lands at Cane View, Mocha, East Bank Demerara from which more than 30 households were evicted earlier this year and never gave the Central Housing and Planning Authority (CH&PA) any authority there.

GUYSUCO’s Company Secretary/Legal Officer, Khawn Rodney states in an affidavit that the corporation admits that it is the owner of the land at Cane View by way of Transport 448 of 1882. That corporation, he says, “has no record that it has ever granted the Central Housing and Planning Authority permission to exercise control over the said lands on its behalf.”

The government had said that it wanted the land as part of works to build a new East Bank Demerara road nearby.

The affidavit was filed in response to a case filed by Mark Gordon, Shenika Simpson and Lucretia George- through their Attorneys-at-Law Dr Vivian Williams and Lyndon Amsterdam-who say that their houses at Cane View were on January 5, 2023 crushed by an excavator and their personal belongings destroyed in violation of a number of their constitutional rights. They are claiming more than GY$200 million in damages and right to own the land.

The applicants say the CH&PA and the Minister of Housing and Water, Collin Croal resorted to self-help to demolish the applicants’ homes and destroy their personal property, but GUYSUCO says it has no record handing over control of that land to the Authority. 

“The Third Named Respondent admits paragraph 9 (a) iv of the Fixed Date Application as the Third Named Respondent possesses no record of having granted permission to the Central Housing and Planning Authority to exercise control over the land or of conveying the said land to the Central Housing and Planning Authority or Ministry of Housing,” states Attorney-at-Law Rodney on behalf of the Corporation.

GUYSUCO further denies participating in the demolition and removal of properties at Cane View.

GUYSUCO is setting the stage to challenge Gordon’s quest for a High Court declaration that the Minister of Housing and Water must transfer permanent and absolute ownership of 11 Cane View to him based on the operation of law or the conduct and interactions between him and and employees, servants and agents of the CH&PA. Mr Gordon contends that engagements with representatives of the 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.

But GUYSUCO denies that Gordon, Simpson and George acquired prescriptive rights to the land as alleged in their court application. The Corporation’s Company Secretary is relying on the Title to Land (Prescription and Limitation) (Amendment) Act 2011 which he says prohibits the acquisition of state land or land owned by a corporation in which the controlling interest is vested in the state by prescription through adverse possession regardless of the length of the adverse possession.

GUYSUCO says in any event, even if it is determined that the 2011 Amendment Act does not extinguish the alleged prescriptive rights of the Applicants, the required length of sole and undisturbed possession of state land for the establishment of prescriptive rights
prior to the Amendment was thirty years. The First Named Applicant is claiming that he was in occupation of the land for merely 12 years from 1997-2009.

GUYSUCO denies that the Applicants acquired a license with equity with respect to the land, arguing that Section 3 ( d) (i) of the Civil Law of Guyana Act Chapter 6:01 provides that there shall only be full ownership of immovable property in Guyana. Accordingly, there can be no equitable interests in immovable property in Guyana.

Further, GUYSUCO says the CH&PA cannot agree to give up the land because that entity does not own it. “Furthermore, the Central Housing and Planning Authority and Ministry of Housing are not the legal owners of the land and therefore do not have the authority to grant licences to occupy the said land.”

GUYSUCO also denies that Gordon acquired a legitimate expectation to have title to the land conveyed to him as alleged, because GUYSUCO never promised to convey the land  the applicants, and further the Corporation “has no record that the Applicants had applied to it to acquire the land.”

The sugar corporation says it did not participate in the demolition or removal of the Applicants’ property and therefore did not infringe on the Applicants’ constitutional rights.

In an affidavit on behalf of Attorney General Anil Nandlall, Deputy Solicitor General Deborah Kumar says the CH&PA will be asking the court to become a party to the case, and that Housing and Water Minister Collin Croal has informed that at all material times the lands were vested in the State. “The applicants were never lawful owners of the lands in dispute , nor did they over obtain indefeasible title to the said lands; that any allegation by the applicants that their constitutional right to property has been violated is denied and does not meet constitutional muster,” Ms Kumar says.

The Attorney General’s Chambers says Mr Croal denies the allegations of cruel and inhumane punishment contained in the Affidavits in Support, same are denied as completely baseless and without merit.

Mr Croal also informs that at all material times, meetings were held with the Applicants and other squatters of the disputed lands with a view to amicably resolving the issues in dispute, and to provide those squatters with financial assistance, and other options regarding relocation to residential communities. Those include that squatters with concrete structures be allowed to build on land to be allocated;those with respect to those with wooden structures would be removed free of charge to the land to be allocated, and a choice of a house and land in Plantation Prospect or relocation to another lot in any other housing scheme.