Govt appealing ruling on rice farmers’ leases

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Six farmers were successful in their legal challenge of the President’s revocation of their leases for lands at Seafield and No 40 Village, West Coast Berbice; but three months after that challenge, they continue to wait on court costs, since Government has appealed the Acting Chief Justice’s ruling in favour of two of the six plaintiffs.

Chief Justice (ag) Roxane George

The farmers contend that, in November 2014, former President Donald Ramotar had granted them 50-year leases for State land located in the rear of Number 40 Village, West Coast Berbice. The Mahaica/Mahaicony/Abary Agricultural Development Authority (MMA/ADA) had cancelled the leases last year, and this had led to the farmers filing legal actions challenging that cancellation.

After President Granger had cancelled the leases, the farmers again filed court action, and were successful in their challenge against the revocation.

After consideration of the arguments put forward by both sides, acting Chief Justice Roxane George, SC, on August 8 ruled that the farmers’ leases constitute property under Article 142 of the Constitution, and that President David Granger’s revocation of those leases amounted to depriving the applicants of property without compensating them, as noted in the Constitution. She had also determined that the revocation was “unlawful, null & void.”

The plaintiffs were Brian George and his daughter; Tiffany Hubbard and Vaughn Aaron; Joylyn, Gratien and Herman Nicholson.

However, Government has, through the Attorney General’s Chambers, appealed the CJ’s decision in regard to Brian George and Tiffany Hubbard.

AG Basil Williams S.C.

According to the law firm representing the farmers, Mohabir A. Nandlall & Associates, the AG did not contest the acting Chief Justice’s decision relating to the four others. Nandlall’s firm, however, contends that court costs should still be paid to its clients, even though the appeal was filed during the latter part of the six-week time frame in which notices of such appeals should be tendered.

In a document seen by this publication, Nandlall wrote the Attorney General on October 4, appealing for the awarded court costs to be paid to the principal claimants Brian George and Joylyn Nicholson, but, to date, the costs have not been paid.

Last August, the court had also granted to the applicants a conservatory order which prohibited the servants and/or agents of MMA/ADA or any other officer of the State from entering upon, remaining, occupying, or in any manner whatsoever interfering with the applicants’ quiet and peaceful possession, occupation, and enjoyment of the said lease, unless compensation, which is to be determined by the parties, is paid.

Former Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs, Anil Nandlall

Attorney for the claimants, Anil Nandlall, had stressed that at no time were the applicants afforded a hearing by any person or body or authority; hence they were not offered the opportunity to show justification why their leases should not have been cancelled.

He further expressed that Chief Justice George had “rejected the arguments” advanced by Attorney-General Basil Williams, which posited that President Granger’s actions were immune from legal challenge, and that the applicants’ leases were invalid because they were not signed by President Donald Ramotar.

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