A group of West Coast Berbice rice farmers has filed another lawsuit, this time against Government after it was recently announced that President David Granger has ordered the cancellation of their land leases.
Last year, farmers; Phillip Johnson, Rupert Blackman and Rawle Miller had filed legal action against the Mahaica Mahaicony Abary/Agricultural Development Authority (MMA/ADA), challenging the cancellation of State Land Leases in Rear of Seafield, West Coast Berbice. The farmers claimed that the leases were granted by former President Donald Ramotar and only the Head of State has the right to make such a cancellation.
After months of hearing, former Chief Justice Ian Chang in February quashed the cancellation of the leases in favour of the farmers.
However, the farmers said they were subsequently informed by General Manager of MMA/ADA Aubrey Charles that President Granger has cancelled their leases. They referred to a notice that was published in Stabroek News on 18 March under the heading “Cancellation of State Land Leases Seafield and No. 40 Villages, West Coast Berbice”.
The publication stated: “Notice is hereby given that His Excellency, the President of the Cooperative Republic of Guyana has cancelled all State land leases as described in the Schedules.” According to the three farmers, their leases were among those published in the two schedules.
This caused Johnson, Blackman and Miller to file another Motion, this time challenging the President’s revocation of their leases. The court action was filed in the Constitutional and Administrative Division of the High Court on Wednesday and names the Attorney General and MMA/ADA respondents in the matter.
A date is yet to be fixed for hearing of the matter.
In the Motion, the farmers are asking the court to grant a series of orders by declaring that the cancellation of the leases of “State Land for Agriculture Purpose issued under Section 3(b) of the State Lands Act, Chapter 62:01, and in accordance with the Mahaica/Mahaicony Abary Agricultural Development Authority Act No. 27 of 1977… is contrary to and in violation of Article 142 of the Constitution of the Cooperative Republic of Guyana, is unlawful, null, void and of no effect”.
They are also requesting the court to declare that, “the decision of the President of the Cooperative Republic of Guyana cancelling Lease of State Land for Agriculture Purpose… amounts to the compulsorily acquisition of the Applicant’s leasehold interest thereof without the prompt payment of any or adequate compensation as is guaranteed by Article 142 of the Constitution of Guyana”.
Additionally, the farmers are seeking damages in excess of $5,000,000 for breach of the Applicant’s fundamental rights and freedoms as guaranteed by Articles 142 and 153 of the Constitution of Guyana.
They are also seeking exemplary damages and special damages. Johnson is asking for special damages in the sum of $692,500 and continuing for every rice crop; while Blackman is seeking $619,000 and continuing for every rice crop and Miller, $346,500 and continuing for every rice crop.
The three farmers are further seeking a Conservatory Order from the court prohibiting servants and/or agents of the MMA/ADA from entering upon, remaining, occupying or in any manner whatsoever interfering with the Applicants’ quiet and peaceful possession, occupation and enjoyment of their leases, as well as any other such Orders or such Writs and such directions as the Court may consider appropriate for the purpose of enforcing or securing the enforcement of Article 142 of the Constitution of Guyana.