– WPA chastises PPP, Jagdeo for false land-grabbing claims
AS Leader of the Opposition, Bharrat Jagdeo must take seriously his responsibly to ensure that his party is a credible source of information and must do away with his age-old political strategy of trying to deflect from his party’s wrongdoings by conjuring falsehoods elsewhere.
This stern advice comes from Executive Member of the Working Peoples’ Alliance (WPA), Dr. David Hinds, who, like many others, was disturbed by the recently-debunked claims against Chairman of the Mahaica-Mahaicony-Abary Agricultural Development Authority (MMA/ADA), Kelvin Saul.
Recently, two leading members of the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) alleged that 10,000 acres of land in Region Five was given to Saul as part of a land-grabbing scheme ahead of the 2020 elections.
When a report of the allegation was published by the Kaieteur News, the opposition leader reposted it to his Facebook page with the caption “another example of APNU+AFC land grab.”
However, Saul cleared the air shortly after, explaining that it was under the PPP/C in August 2014 that himself and three other persons, registered under the name ‘Mc Agriculture Trading and Investment Services (MATIS),’ were granted permission to occupy land titles SFP DEM 21/14 from the Guyana Forestry Commission (GFC).
The land was first used for husbandry and harvesting of forestry products and in January 2016, MATIS took a decision to diversify its operation to include other related agricultural activities. Such a move, he explained, required the permission of the MMA/ADA, and as such, an application was submitted.
With the claims made public, Saul has not ruled out the option of taking legal action against the PPP/C for attempting to tarnish his character. He said the attempt is “sickening.”
SET A GOOD EXAMPLE
It would not be the first time that the opposition leader has faced penalty and backlash for propagated misinformation and, on some occasions, media houses have suffered for publishing the same without factchecking.
Dr. Hinds told the newspaper that the opposition leader has to take responsibility, not only for his own actions, but the ill actions of those associated with his party which he encourages.
“As an important leader of the country he needs to be more careful than others,” Hinds said.
“None of these accusations have turned out to be true and so the opposition leader has to be very careful because there are younger leaders both in the PPP and other parties who may look at that kind of behavior and try to emulate it,” he further added.
Earlier this month, judgment was awarded in default against privately-owned Guyana Times Inc. and Editor-in-Chief, Tusika Martin, for a $200M lawsuit levelled against them by Managing-Director of Ground Structure Engineering Consultants (GSEC), Charles Ceres, and his wife, Ndibi Schwiers, for defamation of character.
Ceres had filed the lawsuit after Jagdeo accused him of being one of several involved in a massive “land-grabbing” scheme facilitated by the government following the December 21, 2018 no-confidence motion.
A part from the Guyana Times newspaper, the couple is still in the process of seeking damages in excess of $200M from Jagdeo for the publishing of the unsubstantiated and defamatory statements via the PPP’s social media channels and the Kaieteur News.
At his press conference where the remarks were made, Jagdeo had challenged Ceres to do his worst. “He could sue me because what I state is factual,” Jagdeo said. “I am awaiting the lawsuit and the police investigation…I’m daring him to do this,” the opposition leader added.
Although the opposition leader appeared confident in his claims, Deputy Director of the State Assets Recovery Agency (SARA), Aubrey Heath-Retemeyer, and Head of the Guyana Lands and Surveys Commission (GLSC), Trevor Benn, debunked the claims with documented proof.
Ceres has stated that he does indeed have 4.5 acres of land in Liliendaal; this was received since 2017 for which he paid GYD$4M per acre, and is paying $200,000 per acre yearly for the lease.
Meanwhile, he has rejected Jagdeo’s remarks that he owns or leases any land at Bohemia, Corentyne, Berbice.
NASTY POLITICAL STRATEGY
Dr. Hinds told this newspaper that he sees these repetitive actions of the opposition leader as part of a political strategy.
“We feel that the opposition leader adopts a strategy whereby he throws things and hopes that they stick,” Dr. Hinds said.
“The second reason he’s doing it is to deflect the accusations that are being made against members of the PPP and his administration which engaged in serious land grabbing; the worst kind of land grabbing in the history of post-colonial Guyana occurred under the PPP,” the WPA Executive further stated.
He also noted that the opposition leader is engaged in a form of “ethic finger pointing,” something Director-General of the Ministry of the Presidency, Joseph Harmon, also observed back in June 2019.
Harmon had pointed out that those who were subject to Jagdeo’s ridicule are of one ethnic persuasion.
Among those who have been targeted in the past are Chief Elections Officer, Keith Lowenfield; Businesswoman, Muriel Allen; and Special Assistant at the State Assets Recovery Agency (SARA), Eric Phillips.
“We have always preached unity of our people; we have preached social cohesion. In fact, when we came into office, we made a whole ministry out of social cohesion, because it is our belief that social cohesion is what we need in this country for it to be developed in an equitable way,” Harmon said.
He noted that land for regular citizens is one of the most challenging matters the government is trying to correct.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo said that while PPP opposition has a “dirty” history regarding allocation of State lands and assets, these acts have not been adopted by the APNU/AFC Government.
“We know about the sleaze associated with Pradoville One and Pradoville Two,” Prime Minister Nagamootoo said as he recalled the removal of the mast of the former Guyana Broadcasting Corporation (GBC) to make way for “prime state land” to be handed out to members of the PPP and its affiliates at Pradoville Two.
The allocation process at the two schemes has been ventilated in the media over the years and came up for discussion at the Land Commission of Inquiry in 2017.
During those hearings, the commission was told that there is no evidence within the records of the Central Housing and Planning Authority (CH&PA) of house lot allocation process for homes at Pradoville One and Pradoville Two.
PPP’s Presidential Candidate, Irfaan Ali, has also been accused of defrauding the State of some $174M for his role in the notorious Pradoville land-sale scandal. The case is before the court.
The ex-minister was slapped with 19 counts of fraud in November 2018 and the charges laid were indictable. The charges read that between 2010 and 2015, Ali conspired with persons unknown to defraud the Government of Guyana when he acted recklessly in presenting the value of 19 plots of State land situated at Plantation Sparendaam and Goedverwagting, East Coast Demerara, and sold the said lands at a grossly undervalued price without first obtaining a valuation to determine their true value.
“Some of them used the government as a real estate agency,” the Prime Minister Nagamootoo said, while adding “I believe that the PPP, the Jagdeo PPP, should hang its head in shame.”