Chief Justice (ag) Roxanne George – Wiltshire on Tuesday ruled that the move by the government to terminate the leased lands of some rice farmers was unconstitutional and that the farmers are entitled to compensation from the State.
A group of rice farmers was granted 50 years lease for State lands located in the rear of No. 40 Village, West Coast Berbice by then President Donald Ramotar, however, President David Granger last year served a notice informing the farmers that the leases will be cancelled.
During the court proceedings and in media reports, it was learned that at no time were the farmers afforded a hearing by any authority offering them an opportunity to show cause why their leases should be terminated. They were also not made aware of reasons why their leases were cancelled.
Represented by several attorneys including Anil Nandlall, the farmers won the case against the State.
The Chief Justice in her ruling declared that the cancellation of the applicants’ lease amounted to compulsorily acquisition of their leasehold interest thereof without the prompt payment of any or adequate compensation as is guaranteed by Article 142 of the Constitution of Guyana.
She also handed down a declaration that the cancellation of the applicants’ lease was unlawful, null, void and of no effect. A conservatory order was also granted, prohibiting the servants and/or agents of the MMA/ADA or any other officer of the State from entering upon, remaining, occupying or in any manner whatsoever interfering with the applicants’ quiet and peaceful possession, occupation and enjoyment of the said lease unless compensation is paid which is to be determined by the parties.
Additionally, the Court ordered costs to the Applicants in the sum of $300,000. In the course of her ruling, the Chief Justice rejected the arguments advanced by the Attorney General Basil Williams, that the President David Granger and his actions are immune from legal challenge and that the applicants’ leases were invalid because they were not signed by Ramotar.
The Court held that the applicants’ leases were properly executed and were valid and binding.
Similar legal challenges were filed last year Nandlall for several rice farmers from Seafield, West Coast Berbice. These matters were heard by the Justice Yonette Cummings-Edwards, while she was Chief Justice (Ag). The decisions in respect of those cases are yet to be delivered.