There is a mad rush by the APNU+AFC Coalition Government to give away massive tracts of state lands cross the country, in strategic locations, according to Opposition Leader, Bharrat Jagdeo.
And during his Thursday (June 27, 2019) news conference, he made clear that President David Granger, must answer. “For quite a while now we have allowed the President to claim lack of knowledge or remain silent about daily acts of corruption in his government…he remains silent. He refuses to acknowledge the clear reality of what is taking place,” he said.
Jagdeo, during his news conference, made public damning evidence demonstrating the “corruption” emanating from Granger’s office. “I am hoping that he will be forced to respond to these issues,” he said.
HAPPENINGS UNDER GRANGER’S OFFICE
He explained that agencies/ officers falling under Granger’s office – the Project Management Office, Department of Environment, the State Assets Recovery Agency (SARA) and persons linked directly to the Director General of the Ministry of the Presidency, Joseph Harmon – have benefited from the issuance of lands.
Jagdeo added that majority of the transactions having been given out after the passage of the no-confidence motion.
He said, “I want to show how people in his office – working at the Ministry of the Presidency – have been linked to the wanton, almost obscene, acts of land grabbing – to the detriment of the whole of Guyana.”
Among the list of persons directly linked to the Ministry of the Presidency receiving lands, referred to by the Opposition Leader are:
- Marlon Bristol, Head of the Project Management Office within the Ministry of the Presidency:
- 1 acre in Mocha, Region 4 -February 2019
- 12 acres in Linden, Region 10, – June 2019
- 80 acres in Bohemia, Region 6, – February 2019
- Ndibi Schwiers, Department of Environment within the Ministry of the Presidency (Wife of Charles Ceres):
- 12 acres in Canje Creek, Region 6, – February 2018
- 112 acres in Bohemia, Region 6, – File number 621112/4
Jagdeo noted that in the Schwiers case the handover of another 5000 acres, as well as a plot at Liliendaal is also being looked at and will be addressed once more information is available in the future.
- Great Wall Inc. (liked to Shawn Hopkinson, whose property is being rented by Director General, Joseph Harmon):
- 20 acres at Schoonard Foreshore, Region 3 – File Number 332242/3
- Great Wall Inc. (a company where Saratu Phillips – involved in the parking meter fiasco – is a Director):
- 20 acres at Good Fortuin, Region 3 – File number 3322421/3
- 50 acres at Best Foreshore, Region 3 – File Number 332231/38
- Aubrey Heath-Retemeyer, Deputy Head of SARA – within the Ministry of the Presidency:
- 10 acres on the Linden/ Soesdyke Highway, Region 4, in 2019 – File number 411412/522b
- 1 acre Mocha, Region 4, in 2019
- Eric Phillips, SARA Special Assistant – within the Ministry of the Presidency:
- 1000 acres in the Essequibo River – April 2019 – File Number 321132/1604
- 100 acres in the Demerara River in 2009 – File Number 331231/7
ERIC PHILLIPS DENIAL
Jagdeo noted that while SARA is supposed to be responsible for the recovery of state assets, its officials are involved in siphoning off assets. He noted too that Phillips denied that he receive massive tracts of land from the APNU+AFC Coalition Government.
Phillips had said: “I have never applied for 3000 acres of land and have never received 3000 acres of land. Of course, Jagdeo has given away to several of his friends, 60,000 acres of land at 12.5 cents US for 199 years and I can show those documents. I had not intended to reply to Jagdeo’s continuous abuse of the media and the truth but I decided to for two simple reasons. First, his supporters always believe his lies and libel even though he is a known liar. Second, and more importantly, the media has a responsibility to verify facts, to ask Jagdeo for proof when he makes these statements. Instead, the media has become a willing conspirator against the truth in the weekly press conference held by Jagdeo. Isn’t there some professional code of ethics?”
The Opposition Leader stressed that the details he referred to represent clear evidence that exposed the lies peddled by Phillips.
Jagdeo added that other officials are also part of the giveaway of lands, including Christopher Jones, Director of Sports, who received land at Aubrey Barker Road, South Ruimveldt, Region 4.
He disclosed too that an ex-PNCR Parliamentarian received several plots of land in the Pomeroon, Region 2 – 2900 acres, 1200 acres and 6400 acres. “Within a few months one family received more land in the Pomeroon that the PPP (People’s Progressive Party/ Civic) government gave to citizens in the Pomeroon in 23 years,” the Opposition Leader said.
He stated that more details on this issue will be addressed at a later date.
The Opposition Leader noted that another official benefiting from the land grab is Chief Elections Officer (CEO) at the Guyana Elections Commission, Keith Lowenfield.
- 1297 acres in February 2019
- 216 acres at Millie’s Hideout, Region 10 in June 2019
- 2 acres at Mocha, Region 4, June 2019
ACTING IN GRANGER’S NAME
Citing the law, the Opposition Leader questioned Granger’s role in the give-away of state assets.
The Lands and Surveys Commission Act of 1999, Section 4 (1) (g) states that: “The functions of the Commission are to receive and evaluate offers to purchase or let public lands and to issue, for and on behalf of the President, grants leases and permits to occupy such lands, in accordance with any law regulating the administration and disposition of public lands.”
Jagdeo said, “President Granger has to answer about whether he knows what is being done in his name. He has to tell the public why his office is doing this. Is he is aware? Does he sanction this?”
Jagdeo noted that Guyanese people are now aware of a clear pattern – persons connected to the hierarchy of the current Government are the beneficiaries in the land grab. “Ordinary people are not benefiting,” he said, adding that the land received by Eric Phillips can facilitate 10,000 house lots.
“This is a large scale rape of the country’s resources,” he said.
Further, the Opposition Leader underscored the fact that the lands given away are lands where infrastructural developments were either planned or envisioned – deep water habour facilities, shore-based facilities and more.
“We are putting them on notice, anything done after the no-confidence motion will be treated as illegal….any oil company that treats with them (those who benefited from land acquisition) because of the stolen assets will not enjoy good relations with the PPP because this is illegally done,” Jagdeo declared.
He added, “…everything will be reviewed. If the process is not followed, if corruption is traced, it (the lands) will be recovered.”