Acting Chief Justice (CJ) Roxane George-Wiltshire SC, earlier on Wednesday ruled against the President’s revocation of rice farmers land leases, deeming it unconstitutional. She also ruled that the farmers are entitled to compensation from the state, amounting to the sum of $300,000.
The Applicants, Brian George and Tiffany Hubbard, Joylyn Nicholson, Gratien Nicholson, Vaughn Aaron and Herman Nicholson were represented by Attorneys-at-Law, Mohabir Anil Nandlall and Manoj Narayan among others, while the state and the Mahaica, Mahaicony, Abary- Agriculture Development Association’s (MMA–ADA) was represented by Attorney General Basil Williams SC.
The Applicants in 2014, were granted fifty-year leases for State Land, located in the rear of No. 40 Village, West Coast Berbice by then President Donald Ramotar, however in March of 2016, they received letters from the MMA/ADA informing them that President David Granger cancelled their leases and that they must cease occupation and give up possession of the land to the MMA/ADA.
According to their attorneys, “at no time were the Applicants afforded a hearing by any person or body or authority offering them an opportunity to show cause why their Leases should be cancelled, nor were they made aware of the reasons why their leases were cancelled.”
As such, constitutional proceedings against the Attorney General and MMA/ADA were filed.
In her ruling, the Chief Justice disallowed the arguments advanced by the Attorney-General, which stated that the President and his actions are immune to legal challenge and that the Applicants’ leases were invalid because they were not signed by then President Donald Ramotar.
The Court upheld that the Applicants leases were properly executed and were valid and binding.
Justice George-Wiltshire in her ruling, based on information received, articulated that “the Applicants leases constituted property under Article 142 of the Constitution and that the President’s revocation of those leases amounted to a deprivation to the Applicants property without prompt and adequate compensation as prescribed by Article 142 of the Constitution. The revocation of those leases, therefore, were unconstitutional and null and void.”
Moreover, among other declarations, The CJ issued a conservatory order “prohibiting 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 Applicant’s quiet and peaceful possession, occupation and enjoyment of the said lease unless compensation is paid which is to be determined by the parties.”
Several similar legal challenges were filed last year for several rice farmers from Seafield, West Coast Berbice.
However, according to Nandlall, under whom the challenges were filed, “these matters were heard by the Honourable Madam Justice Yonette Cummings-Edwards, while she was Chief Justice (Ag). Unfortunately, the decisions in respect of those cases are yet to be delivered.”