… as Govt moves to reclaim Cheddi Jagan Research Centre
Attorney General and Legal Affairs Minister Basil Williams has stated that the 99-year lease for the lands on which the Red House is located was never formerly approved, thus rendering it invalid and allowing the President to revoke it.
Upon the coalition’s assumption of office last year, it was revealed that the land on which Red House sits was leased to the Cheddi Jagan Research Centre Inc (CJRCI) for 99 years for only $12,000 rent per year. The coalition Government had strongly objected to this and had consequently announced its intention to review the lease agreement.
In a statement on Wednesday, the Attorney General posited that the Red House lease was birthed in darkness to hide its unlawfulness from the scrutiny of justice.
According to Williams, the Commissioner of Lands and Surveys (CL&S) is the custodian of all Government Lands granted to him by the President, thus titling him the ‘Lessor’ when creating a lease once he has a ‘Lessee’. This is why, the AG noted, there must be evidence of the President approving leases under Section 10 of the Lands Department Act Chapter 59:01.
“It is submitted that upon a proper perusal of file number 413112/11 there is no formal evidence of sanction or approval by the President of the Day and the lease is invalid,” he stated.
Williams went on to explain that after the CJRC was incorporated in March 2000 as a non-profit entity, a lease was drawn up that year between the Government of Guyana and the National Trust as ‘Lessors’ and CJRCI as ‘Lessees’ however that document was not executed.
He pointed out that in May 2006, then General Secretary of the People’s Progressive Party (PPP), former President Donald Ramotar, made an application to the CL&S on behalf of the CJRCI for a lease of Red House lands. A file was opened and in 2010 the application was re-submitted to the then Office of the President.
Williams added that as of January 2011, that re-submission was also not approved as there is no evidence of any signature of the President on the purported schedule, only those of the then CL&S, Doorga Persaud, and the Manager of Land Administration, Enrico Monize, were affixed.
In March 2012, a lease entered by Persaud on behalf of the Government of Guyana and Ralph Ramkarran SC, on behalf of the CJRCI was issued under Section 10 of the Lands Department Act, Chapter 59:01. The document stated that the Red House, comprising of Lots 65, 66, and 67 High Street, Kingston, Georgetown, was leased for a term of 99 years commencing from the first day of 2012, at an annual rental of $12,000 for the first three years with Government having the authority to revise the annual rent payable at the end of each and every three years.
“On 30th day of March, 2012 the Red House lease was purportedly executed by the CL&S and Ralph Ramkarran SC for the lessees. Again, there was no formal approval by the President of the day, nor the National Trust, rendering the lease invalid, and a nullity in law. The President can properly revoke it,” the AG outlined.
The Attorney General noted that there is no evidence of a formal approval by the Minister/President to lease the ‘Red House’ a Public Building/National Monument/Heritage site to the CJRCI. The unsigned draft lease agreement of 2000 suggests a disinclination on the part of the Minister/President to approve such a transaction.
“It is submitted that the ‘Red House’ Lease of 99 years was not executed in the manner of a transport that is advertised and passed before the Court; nor was it filed as of record and annotation made against the Property by the Registrar of Deeds,” he mentioned in the statement.
Earlier this year, Williams had disclosed that the coalition Government wants to transform the Red House into a facility in memory of all past Guyanese Presidents.
This did not go down well with the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) and its members, with former President Donald Ramotar expressing that the move represented pure “arrogance and vindictiveness”. He had told Guyana Times last year that to share the building with other Presidents would be a blatant dishonour to the prestigious Dr Jagan.
“Dr Jagan lived in that house, it is the perfect memorial for him,” Ramotar stated. Moreover, the PPP had also voiced its concerns over Government’s decision.
“The name ‘Red House’ is an exemplification of the fact that Dr Cheddi Jagan was, at that time, branded a ‘Red’ and Communist and due to the fact that he lived at the time in that building it became known as Red House or the Red’s House,” the Party had commented.