(Following is a comment from former Attorney General and PPP/C member of Parliament Mohabir Anil Nandlall on the ongoing Red House saga)
Today, I filed legal proceedings for and on behalf of the Cheddi Jagan Research Center INC, as a result of an announcement made last night by the Office of the President “that the President has ordered that the lease for Red House to CJRCI be revoked and that the occupants vacate the property by December 31st 2016.”
Mohabir Anil Nandlall
Among the reliefs sought in the proceedings were a declaration that the lease to CJRCI is valid, binding and in force; a declaration that the revocation or threatened revocation of the said lease is unlawful, illegal, contrary to and in breach of CJRCI’s fundamental right not to be deprived of its property, that is, its 99 years lease hold-interests as guaranteed by article 142 of the Constitution; damages for breach of contract and breach of constitutional rights; a Conservatory Order restraining the Attorney General, his servants and agents or any other Government officer or the State from ejecting or evicting the CJRCI from Red House or interfering with their occupation, possession/quiet and peaceful enjoyment of Red House and a Conservatory Order restraining the Attorney General, his servants/agents or any other Government officer or the State from interfering with or removing or destroying any of CJRCI’s property, documents, artifacts, books, papers, and other archival materials stored at the Red House.
I approached the court ex parte. The matter was heard by Chief Justice Yonette Cummings-Edwards. At first, the Judge refused the ex parte application for the Conservatory Orders and ordered that the proceedings be served on the Attorney General and adjourned the matter for 3 pm. The proceedings were served.
At 3pm Mr. Basil Williams, Attorney General, appeared. To my utter surprise and to the surprise of the judge, he informed the court that the lease was revoked “several days ago” and that the Government had already taken possession of Red House “several days ago;” therefore, the court will be acting in vain if it made any of the Conservatory Orders. I pointed out to the Court, the following:
- That the statements of the AG cannot be true because only last night in a Statement the issued by Office of the President said that the President “has ordered a revocation of the lease and that the occupants must vacate the Red House by the 31st of December. Therefore, the lease has not yet been revoked.
- That the Red House staff was still there.
- That only this morning I retrieved from Red House certain documents which I made a part of the court proceedings. That, therefore, CJRIC was still in possession of the building and no one ever attempted to take possession from them.
- That in any event the Conservatory Orders were to protect the current status quo.
In response, Mr. Williams outrageously argued that the statement issued by OP last night was wrong and that he does not know about any such Statement and that he is acting on the President’s instructions.
Eventually, the Judge granted an Order restraining the AG, his servants and or agents and every officer of Government or the State from interfering with or removing or destroying any property, materials, artifacts of the CJRIC stored at Red House.
As I was leaving the court, I received a phone call that persons from the Office of the President were at the Red House breaking the sign and padlocking the doors and gates, although the Red House’s staff were inside the building. The clear inference is that after the court hearing, Mr. Basil Williams instructed them to go to the Red House. When the Press, the Leader of the Opposition, myself and other party leaders turned up, the men ran away.
I have advised that CJRCI to remain in possession of the building until the court case is determined. In the meanwhile, the Court Order protects the contents of the building. The case is adjourned to the 20th of February. Leave was granted to the AG to file an Affidavit in Answer and for me to file an Affidavit in Reply.
In the end, the rule of law prevailed; the independence of the judiciary prevailed and the legacy of Cheddi and Janet Jagan remain protected. Many lawyers are assisting with the case, including Ms. Priya Manickchand, who was with me in court. To all of them, I extend my gratitude.