President David Granger Thursday announced he had revoked the lease and had handed down instructions to end the lease in a letter to Minister of State, Joseph Harmon, more than one year after the coalition government had engaged the Cheddi Jagan Research Centre Incorporated (CJRCI) on the matter.
A government statement stated that this engagement included negotiations for The Red House to provide a national service by housing information on all of the Presidents of Guyana.
Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs, Basil Williams said that after the discussions broke down, he sought to determine the legality of the lease agreement.
Having carefully considered the advice of the Minister of Legal Affairs, President Granger has concluded that it would be in the public’s interest for the lease issued to the CJRCI to be revoked and has also directed the Minister of State that the building be assigned to house “The National Trust of Guyana, its staff, stores and equipment”, currently housed at another location with effect from January 1, next year.
In a statement issued on Wednesday, Williams said his investigations revealed that the lease held by the CJRCI is invalid on several grounds, including that there is no evidence that the President of the day had sanctioned it.
On March 30, 2012 The Red House lease agreement was initiated without the approval of either the President of the Day or The National Trust of Guyana, which is in contravention of Section 10 of the Lands Department Act Chapter 59:01, rendering it void.
The statement also said that on March 21, 2000, the CJRCI was incorporated as “a not-for-profit company” by late former President Janet Jagan, her daughter Ms. Nadira Jagan-Brancier and former President Donald Ramotar, who was then the General Secretary of the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C), with the aim of establishing a library and research facility to contain the works and documents owned by the late President Cheddi Jagan.
Williams said in that same year, the lease agreement among the parties; the Government of Guyana, The National Trust of Guyana and the CJRCI was drawn up but not executed.
The Attorney General added that on May 3, 2006, Ramotar applied to the Commissioner of Lands and Surveys (CL&S) for a lease of the property on behalf of the CJRCI. He said although a file had been opened in the Guyana Lands and Surveys Commission (GL&SC), approval had not been granted.
The application was then resubmitted on August 30, 2010, on a revised schedule, to the then Office of the President. On January 11, 2011, the resubmitted application was also not approved as there was no evidence of any signature of the President of the Day on the purported schedule, only those of Doorga Persaud, the then CL&S, and the Manager of Land Administration, Mr. Enrique Monize.
However, on March 30, 2012, a lease entered by the CL&S on behalf of the Government of Guyana, and by Ralph Ramkarran, S.C., on behalf of the CJRCI, was issued under Section 10 of the Lands Department Act, Chapter 59:01 for property with a duration of 99 years, commencing on January 1, 2012 at an annual rental of GUY$12,000 (One Guyana dollar =US$0.004 cents) for the first three years.
There was also the proviso that the government could revise the annual rent payable at the end of every three years.
But in the statement, Williams said that the 99-year lease “was not executed in the manner of a transport, that is advertised and passed before the Court, nor was it filed as of record and annotation made against the Property by the Registrar of Deeds.”
The statement further noted that in Section 4 of the State Lands Act Chapter 62:01 said that State Lands can only be converted into Government Lands with the sanction of the President of the Day and on the terms and conditions determined by this office bearer and there is no formal evidence of sanction or approval by the then President.
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