Judge grants WCB farmers injunction against Region 5 REO from bulldozing lands

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REO Ovid Morrison

One week after Statement of Claim proceedings were filed at the High Court, Justice Navindra Singh has granted three of 30 farmers in Region Five (Mahaica-Berbice) an injunction against the district’s Regional Executive Officer (REO) Ovid Morrison preventing the bulldozing of their farmlands.

The three claimants – Krishna Sewlall, Kristopher Sewnarine and Kaleel Jameer – are seeking over $10 million in damages for what they contend was the unlawful destruction of their property: cash crops and farm houses.

According to their lawyer, Anil Nandlall, Justice Singh’s injunction which was granted on Monday will remain in force for the duration of the court matter in which the farmers are seeking over $10 million in damages. The farmers are occupying land in Tract 3 ‘X’ of Block ‘1A’ and Tract ‘Y’ portions of Plantation Naarstigheid, part of Bath, West Coast Berbice (WCB).

The court’s order restrains Morrison, his servants, representatives, officers and or agents from continuing entering upon, remaining, occupying, farming, bulldozing or occupying in any manner whatsoever interfering with the applicants’ quiet and peaceful use, occupation and enjoyment of the portion of land.

Former Attorney General Anil Nandlall

Morrison was told that should he violate the Court’s order, he would be in contempt of court and may be liable to imprisonment or his assets could be confiscated. The Court will soon determine a date for the matter to be heard.

Court documents showed that many of the farmers have been occupying the land since 1989 and were granted a two-year lease for 1.4 acres in March 2000 under the Social Impact Amelioration Project (SIMAP) for large-scale farming. They had claimed that since the expiration of their lease they developed the said property, cured the soil and prepared it for farming.

It was in October 2016 that REO Morrison requested that some 50 farmers, including the three claimants, vacate their WCB farmland and even threatened to bulldoze the crops and forcibly eject them from the land. Though the farmers retained Nandlall and had written to the REO, he was said to have moved ahead with the action to remove the farmers.

In April 2018, agents linked to Morrison “unilaterally decided” to enter the said farmland the three claimants occupied and cleared a portion of the land, cutting down several cash crops, including sweet peppers, lettuce, eschalot, plantain, calaloo and banana plants. Thereafter on August 6, 2018, two excavators entered the land and flattened another portion.

The claimants allege that on August 7, 2018, the REO’s agents entered again and destroyed Sewlall’s wooden farmhouse valued $300,000. Sewnarine’s farmhouse was also destroyed and that building was valued $800,000. Sewlall is seeking special damages of $3,254,000 for his destroyed crops and farmhouse, while Sewnarine wants Morrison to pay him $950,000 for his losses. Meanwhile, Jameer is seeking $1,170,000 from the REO. The special damages claim amounts to $5,374,000 while the general damages claim requests in excess of $5,000,000 for trespass.

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