Nandlall weighs in on the Pradoville 2 fiasco
By: Mohabir Anil Nandlall, MP.
Over the last few years, much has been said about the Sparendaam Development, better known in the Press, as Pradoville#2. In this public flow of information a lot of inaccuracies have been peddled, and have been repeated so many times that they are now considered “facts”. For the public record, it is important that these inaccuracies be identified and debunked. I will now endeavor to do so.
It has been repeatedly stated that the Governments’ transmission tower was removed to facilitate Pradoville#2. This is simply not the truth. In terms of time, this tower was removed long before any work had begun at Pradoville#2. Its removal had nothing to do with Pradoville#2. The European Union had funded the expansion of Ogle Airport, which included extension of its’ runway to facilitate greater traffic and larger aircraft. It was determined by those in charge of that project and the Guyana Civil Aviation Authority that this transmission tower was in the flight path of aircraft leaving the airport. They requested the removal of the Tower. The Government agreed to do so. That was the reason for the removal of the Tower.
As part of the misinformation, the costs and expenses in relation to the dismantling, removal, transportation and installation of this tower at another site are all erroneously included in the calculations by those whom have attempted to assess the value of the developmental works at Pradoville#2. This is obviously wrong and has led to exaggerated sums of money being peddled in the public domain as part of the costs of the developmental works which were done at Pradoville#2.
All manner of formulae have been employed by those who have attempted to calculate the value of the lands at Pradoville#2. The fact is that the price for which the land was sold, was similar to, or comparable with, the price at which the Government sold lands under its housing program to individuals as well as developers at that point in time. At or about the same time, the Government sold, by way of public tender, a block of land at Liliendaal that is much closer to the City at a price of five million dollars ($5,000,000) per acre. This was the highest offer produced by a public tendering process.
Similarly, the Government sold several hundred acres of land on the East Bank of Demerara to private developers at about 4-5 million dollars per acre. When one calculates the value of a middle income household, hundreds of which the Government sold for one million two hundred thousand dollars ($1,200,000), it approximates to just under five million dollars ($5,000,000) per acre.This is the approximate price at which Pradoville#2 lots were sold.
Pradoville#2 has been described as,“ocean front lands” and this has been used to boost its value. An objective assessment would be obliged to take into account, the distance between Pradoville#2 and the City, as well as the fact that one has to access it by driving through under-developed areas, using access roads. But these factors are deliberately omitted from the equation by those who are bent on painting a particular picture.
It has been argued that the then Cabinet approved a decision to give its members lands at Pradoville#2 below the market value of those lands, and therefore, the Cabinet and those who received the lands did so, unlawfully.
Applying the same legal logic, did the current cabinet and its members not act unlawfully, when they gave themselves a 50% retroactive increase in salary, thereby guaranteeing to each member, a pension of seven-eighths (7/8) of that salary, when the public sector employees were paid a mere 5% increase? In principle, state lands and public monies in the treasury are from the same genus and are all state assets.
Therefore, would these Ministers be charged as well? And would the Special Prosecutors who are likely to be hired to prosecute the owners of the lands at Pradoville#2, be unleashed upon these cabinet members also? Or will private criminal charges have to be filed? I cannot imagine that the DPP would enter a nolle prosequi to any private criminal charges filed against current ministers having authorized the institution of charges against the Pradoville#2 landowners. Will criminal charges be instituted against the Forbes Burnham family, who received 5 acres of prime land, east of Sheriff Street, in the vicinity of the Botanical Gardens, given to them by transport, by former President Bharrat Jagdeo? Will these Special Prosecutors be directed to prosecute these charges?
What is certain is that interesting times and a lot of work for lawyers lie ahead.