“It’s highway robbery” on the part of the Government – Nandlall
Guyana’s High Commissioner to Canada and a senior figure in the People’s National Congress Reform (PNCR), Clarissa Riehl is expected to move to the courts during the course of this week to challenge a decision by the Government to take control of a plot of land she owns at Middle and Carmichael Streets, under the Acquisition of Lands for Public Purposes Act, a source close to the Guyanese diplomat has confirmed.
The PNCR is the largest partner in the six-party governing A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance For Change (APNU/AFC) coalition.
Riehl and her husband own one plot of the land, while the other is owned by Beharry Group of Companies.
According to the source, a Senior Counsel, who is very close to the David Granger Administration, is expected to file the challenge in the High Court after Riehl reportedly complained that she had indicated to Attorney General Basil Williams her refusal to sell the land – as she had indicated when approached by former AG Anil Nandlall about two years ago, which Williams had already communicated to the State.
Efforts to contact Riehl for a comment proved futile, but the source said that already the legal challenge has been prepared and the Attorney for the Guyanese diplomat would be seeking an injunction against the Government.
The Official Gazette of September 24, which published the order made by Public Infrastructure Minister David Patterson on September 22, 2016, identified the property as the east quarter of Lot 92 Middle and Carmichael Streets.
The property is being taken over by the State for the proposed construction of Government buildings.
Attorney General Williams, during a media briefing on Friday last, had suggested that “the nation should know that when we [APNU/AFC] entered Government, I inherited that proposal by the PPP to acquire those said lots.”
He said, “The staff I inherited recommended those lots… So the issue of the compulsory acquisition was something inherited from the PPP… So perhaps the problem Mr [Anil] Nandlall (former Attorney General) has is that he didn’t get to do the transaction.”
However, Nandlall denied Williams’ claims, saying that the AG was peddling mistruths.
Nandlall, in a letter to the press on Saturday, said, “I wish to make it unequivocally clear, that as Attorney General, I had no intention whatsoever of compulsorily acquiring the said two lots of land and that no step whatsoever was ever taken by the PPP/Civic Government to compulsorily acquire the said two lots of land; that all I did in relation thereto was to make contact with the owners of the two plots of land and enquired from them, whether the lands were for sale.”
Both owners, he said, answered in the negative and that was the end of the transaction: “I never even took a proposal to Cabinet in relation to this matter.”
In an invited comment, Nandlall described the entire fiasco as “highway robbery” on the part of Government and pointed to the fact that it was looking to pay as compensation rates calculated by its Chief Evaluation Office which are way below the market value of the properties.
Government is looking to pay $20 million for a property that is valued at least $60 million. Nandlall pointed to the fact that commercial banks currently do not accept valuations done by that office as market value, something that Minister Patterson is quite aware of, since he was an evaluation officer in private practice and would have received several proposals.
He said too that apart from the inelegant attacks on himself and the PPP/C Administration by the current Attorney General over the transaction – “the process has multiple worrying implications”.
Nandlall said the action by the Government was a demonstration of its willingness to confiscate private property, a clear demonstration of the Administration’s disrespect for the constitutional rights of citizens to own property. He said too that the action demonstrated that Government was willing to employ extraordinary powers to compulsorily acquire people’s property.
The former Attorney General is adamant that the circumstances surrounding the transaction do not warrant the use of such extraordinary powers since it was clear that constructing a building to expand the Legal Affairs Ministry did not warrant the overriding of the sanctity of private property and there were numerous other options available.
Nandlall was adamant that Government by its actions continue to demonstrate its willingness to flippantly resort to draconian measures.