People’s Progressive Party (PPP) Member and Attorney-at-Law Priya Manickchand has rubbished claims made by Attorney General and Legal Affairs Minister Basil Williams that the Conservatory Order requested by the Management Committee of the Cheddi Jagan Research Centre Incorporated (CJRCI) was refused.
Last Friday, the local media was informed that Attorneys Anil Nandlall and Manickchand had secured a Conservatory Order on behalf of Hydar Ally, Chairman of the CJRCI Management Committee. The Order, granted by Chief Justice Yonette Cummings-Edwards, seeks to restrain the Attorney General, his servants and/or agents and every officer of Government or the State, from interfering with or removing or destroying any property, materials, artefacts of the CJRCI stored at Red House.
However, the following day, the Ministry of the Presidency issued a statement calling for the retraction of reports that the Order was granted. In the State’s release, Attorney General Williams claimed that the Conservatory Order was refused after it was pointed out during Friday’s hearing that the declarations requested by Ally had no basis. He noted too that he had informed the Chief Justice that the lease was already cancelled and Government has taken possession of the Red House.
However, on Tuesday, Manickchand said the claim by the Attorney General, who along with the Guyana Lands and Survey Commission (GL&SC) was named respondents in the legal action, is “bizarre”.
She was quoted in the Guyana Times as saying noted, “It was a bizarre claim by the Attorney General that (the order) was not granted when there is a perfected order entered to that effect… It is also a rather bizarre claim from the Attorney General. That really needs clarification, when he said that Government has possession of the property.”
Furthermore, Manickchand alluded to the Court Order, copies of which were also posted on the Party’s Facebook page, outlining that “… upon hearing Attorney-at-law for the Application/Plaintiff and the Respondent/Defendants it is by consent ordered that the first named Respondent/Defendant give an undertaking that all items property and artefacts of the Application/Plaintiff stored at the demised property that is Area ‘A’, now called Red House, comprising Lots 65, 66 and 67 High Street, Kingston… will not be interfered with or removed until further ordered.”
In the court document, the Chief Justice also granted leave to the respondents to file an Affidavit in Answer within 21 days from Friday’s ruling date, and further ordered that the applicant file an Affidavit in Reply within 14 days thereafter.
On Thursday last, President David Granger ordered that the lease for Red House, which houses CJRCI be revoked and give the occupants up to December 31, 2016, to vacate the property. He also instructed Minister of State Joseph Harmon to see that the building be assigned to house the National Trust of Guyana, its staff, stores and equipment effective January 1, 2017.
However, quick action by the PPP-backed Management Committee saw legal actions taken to reverse the President’s decision.
In the meantime, workers from the Ministry of the Presidency on Friday hammered down the hallmark sign of the Red House. A major commotion erupted outside of the High Street premises as the workmen stripped the building of its identity and barred the gates to the premises even though Government had given the occupants up to Saturday (December 31, 2016) to vacate the property.
PPP members had rushed to the scene to defend the legacy of former President, Dr Cheddi Jagan. The workmen attempted to transport the wooden sign bearing the words “Cheddi Jagan Research Centre” but fierce opposition from the PPP members and stewards of the Red House prevented them from doing so.
The men eventually drove off in a canter; the PPP members worked together with others on the scene to re-hoist the sign onto the building. Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo who was on site during the standoff with the Government officers, noted that the attacks against Dr Jagan and his legacy is the height of indecency and callousness of the Government.
“This is heinous, reprehensible act on the part of this Government. They have so many things to deal with in this country than to come and do what they did here today (Friday) to forcibly eject the Cheddi Jagan Research Centre from this building,” Jagdeo said.
Later that evening, the PPP’s peaceful candle vigil to voice concerns over Government’s move to evict the Cheddi Jagan Research Centre from Red House was marred by a protest by group of People’s National Congress Reform (PNCR) supporters, led by the Social Protection Minister Volda Lawrence.
This ‘Red House saga’ has sparked immense public outrage, with countless of Guyanese condemning the Government for its unjustifiable attack on the legacy of Dr Jagan – who significantly contributed to the struggle for a free, independent and democratic Guyana.