By Anil Nandlall
I read the very detailed coverage of what purports to be a legal opinion done in relation to the Red House Lease. I wish to take issue with several of the contentions advanced and conclusions drawn in that opinion.
The contention that the lease is invalid because the President did not ‘sanction’ it, is an argument that is manifestly wrong. Any person who has but a mere fleeting familiarity with the State Lands Act and the Regulations made thereunder, as well as the Land Department Act, the MMA/DA Act and similar type legislation, would know that although the power to lease, sell or grant licenses in relation to lands which fall under these legislation, the legislation provide for the President to delegate such authority to the Commissioner of Lands and Surveys, the Commissioner of Forestry or the Commissioner of Geology and Mines or the Manager of the MMA/DA, as the case may be, depending on the nature of the land and the purpose for which it is to be used. The practice of delegating these responsibilities to subordinate functionaries is one that started since the tenure of President Arthur Chung, and has continued on to this day. So, while the President name may appear on the face of a lease in relation to State Lands, the President’s signature is not at the end of the lease, instead, some authorized public officer signs for the President. I have seen leases, for State land issued by President Granger which does not bear his signature and I can make one public at any time.
These authorizations are normally published in the Official Gazette. I recall, not so long ago such authorization was published, authorizing the current Commissioner of Lands and Surveys to sign such documents on behalf of President Granger. The same thing was done in relation to President Ramotar and the then Commissioner of Lands, Mr. Doorga Persaud. This authority also authorizes the Commissioner of Lands and Survey to enter into leases on behalf of the Government in relation to Government lands. The Red House Lease, falls into this category. The argument therefore, that the President did not sanction it, is hopelessly wrong.
Another argument advanced is that the Red House Lease was not executed before a Court or Judge and filed, as of record, in the Deeds Registry as is required by Section 13 of the Deeds Registry Act, and therefore, it is invalid. However, the author of that opinion either deliberately, or through inadvertence, failed to disclose that Section 13 of the Deeds Registry Act, contains a proviso, which states that the Section does not apply to leases for State lands(and Government lands). Thousands of persons who hold leases for State lands, including rice farmers, loggers and those who hold leases for land for other agricultural purposes will confirm that, they never appeared before a Court of Judge when they received their leases, and that their leases were never filed at the Deeds Registry. This is so because there is no such legal requirement.
The other arguments advanced hold no weight in law and are even more frivolous. Accordingly, they are unworthy of a response.
The amount of time and energy which this Government is expending in trying to set aside the Red House Lease is indicative of how skewed its priorities are, and how politically vindictive it can get. The nation is up in arms against the lease of a house at Russel Street, Charlestown, by the Government, to allegedly store drugs, at a rent of fourteen million dollars per month. Ninety million dollars has already been spent in renting this property and all that is being stored there, up to a few weeks ago, were a few boxes of condoms and lubricants. Another one hundred and eighty million dollars was budgeted in the 2017 budget to continue to rent this property for another year. No step is being taken to terminate this lease, which reeks of corruption and is bleeding the Treasury. But, gigantic steps are being taken to revoke the Red House Lease, which is not causing this nation a cent.
I wonder where the self-professed jagonites Khemraj Ramjattan and Moses Nagamootoo, stand on this matter?
29th of December,2016