MMA-ADA threatens dozens with repossession of land

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– says it’s owed over $50M in rent, D&I fees

A number of landowners are facing the repossession of hundreds of acres of farmland after the Mahaica Mahaicony Abary-Agricultural Development Authority (MMA-ADA) issued a notice naming a number of landholders whose land it would repossess.

According to the notice, MMA-ADA claims that the landowners have collectively racked up over $50 million in outstanding payments for drainage and irrigation and land rent, towards the agency.

Listing the names, acreages and addresses of these debtors, who number over 60, MMA-ADA urged that “the following persons who control State lands in the MMA-ADA Project Area 2 are requested to treat urgently their outstanding debts to the MMA for land rent and drainage and irrigation services provided”.

In the case of one group of landowners, who were described as the “heirs of Dindyal Roopnarine” by the MMA-ADA in its notice, they were alleged to owe $1.578 million. This includes $940,705 in land rent owed up to June 2019 and drainage and irrigation fees owed up to that same period which amounted to $638,254.

Kenneth Sealey, of Farm Mahaicony, was cited by the MMA-ADA for allegedly owing $1.928 million. There were even some allegedly owing as much as $4.990 million, as was the case with a Mohamed Rafooeedeen, of Bath Settlement.

The MMA-ADA has had a rocky time when it comes to collecting land rental and D&I fees, while aggrieved homeowners have also had cause to take the agency to court over the repossession of their land. In fact, claims have been made that the agency has been reallocating repossessed lands to supporters of the Government.

There was the case of a co-op society calling for the repossession of lands at Trafalgar, West Coast Berbice (WCB), which were leased by the Mahaica Mahaicony Abary – Agricultural Development Authority (MMA-ADA) back in 2006, after which permission was inexplicably given for persons close to the coalition party to operate on the land, even though the previous lease was still valid.

Head of the co-op society and Councillor of the Region Democratic Council (RDC) of Region Five (Mahaica-Berbice), Lloyda Angus had explained back in April that the lease was granted for persons to utilise three plots of land after registering with the Friendly Society Organisation. Shares were sold and 30 persons obtained a spot to conduct economic and agricultural activities. The lease was valid for some 50 years.

However, in 2015 the office was visited by a group of A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) supporters, who demanded that she hand over the key to the building, indicating that they would be the new occupants.

Angus said she was also told to relinquish the lease documents.
In May, five rice farmers represented by former Attorney General Anil Nandlall, who had sued the State over the cancellation of their leases by the Mahaica Mahaicony Abary-Agriculture Development Authority (MMA/ADA) won their case before the High Court.

In 2015, another set of farmers – Phillip Johnson, Rupert Blackman and Rawle Miller – had filed legal action against the MMA-ADA, challenging the cancellation of State Land Leases in Rear of Seafield, West Coast Berbice.

The farmers had 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 of 2016 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. Besides their leases being revoked, farmers have also had to deal with land rental fee increases.