Land COI wants more time to complete work
The Commission of Inquiry (COI) established by President David Granger to resolve land issues has requested more time to complete its work, even as it handed over its preliminary report to the Minister of State, Joseph Harmon.
Harmon on Friday received the draft document from the Commission which was supposed to hand over the official report by November 1, 2017.
The Minister is expected to hand over the report to the Head of State shortly as well as communicate the Commission’s request for an extension, a statement from the Ministry of the Presidency (MotP) said.
The Ministry explained that the extension was requested since the Commission’s work with regard to Indigenous peoples lands has been put on hold pending the outcome of further discussions with Indigenous groups.
The Ministry said Harmon told the Commissioners that the President’s decision to launch the Inquiry has been vindicated given the scope of work in terms of the evidence that is being unearthed and submissions that are being made. “Many persons felt that this was a waste of time and you can hear it coming out of the Opposition, but certainly I think that the work, which the Commission is doing is a vindication of His Excellency’s confidence that we can provide answers for ourselves right here in Guyana and we do not have to wait on any foreign entity to come here to say to us what is wrong and what we need to fix it,” the Minister said.
He added that the Administration is confident in the ability of the Commissioners to be able to separate fact from fiction so as to rectify long-standing land issues in a manner that is both impartial and satisfactory to the people of Guyana. Speaking to the commissioners, he said, “I get a sense that you are discovering that there are fraudulent transactions in the acquisition of land and that there is need for an education programme in some sections of our society and these are things that have to be followed up after the commission’s work.”
Minister Harmon also informed that there are provisions in the Laws of Guyana that allow for the Commission to refer matters that come before it to other Government agencies to be addressed rather than wait for the submission of the final report for action to be taken.
Meanwhile, Chairman of the Commission, Rev. George Chuck-A-Sang disclosed that the Commission has had two public hearings and is in receipt of over 120 submissions. Moreover, he informed that some of the key issues uncovered thus far include the dispossession of descendants of African Guyanese, the dispossession of freehold lands, through fraudulent practices and the lack of harmonisation of land laws among land management agencies.
On March, the President swore-in the members to the Commission, which also includes David James, Carol Khan-James, Professor Rudolph James, Lennox Caleb, Paulette Henry and Belinda Persaud.
The Land Rights Commission was mandated to examine and make recommendations to resolve issues and uncertainties surrounding the individual, joint or communal ownership of lands across the country.