From David Patterson, former Minister of Public Infrastructure:
Former Commissioner of Guyana Lands and Survey Commission (GLSC), Trevor Benn, was arrested by the police on the morning of Wednesday 10th March for questioning in relation to the sale of several acres of land belonging to the National Industrial and Commercial Investments Limited (NICIL). What is strange is that none of our so called “independent” media sought to get any further details into this accusation but were willing to immediately portray Mr. Benn as a criminal. In any other “normal” country, the media would have sought opinion from legal and land experts as to the basis of these charges, of course this is Guyana – once accused you are guilty, further, once charged, you are guilty.
For those interested in facts, allow me to shed some light on this matter, based on my interactions with GL&SC and NICIL.
All lands in Guyana, other than those privately owned via legal instrument (i.e., transport, title, lease, certificate, vesting order, etc.) belong to the State. All State lands fall under Guyana Lands and Surveys Commission (there are some minor exceptions such as lands set aside under the Sea Defense Act and other such legislations). The Ogle lands in question are lands which were formally cultivated by Guysuco – note however, Guysuco never owned or had titles to these lands, but were given permission via license to cultivate them from GL&SC for a fee (of course Guysuco never paid license fees since they were always cash strapped).
In 2018, when some of the Guysuco estates and lands were transferred to NICIL for the purpose of securing a bond, the lands at the back of Ogle were included in the order transferring control of the Guysuco lands to NICIL. GL&SC immediately objected on the grounds that these lands cannot be transferred to NICIL since Guysuco never owned the lands but were merely enjoying the rights of a tenant to the land. Therefore, the lands remain the property of the State and thus under the purview of GLSC. Several legal opinions were pro-offered by both agencies, however, the ownership matter was never conclusively resolved up to 2020.
In an abundance of caution, the then Ministry of Public Infrastructure entered into an agreement with both agencies when lands were required to be reserved for the East Bank – East Coast Bypass road as well as our proposed road networks on the West Bank of Demerara (what the PPP are now calling their Superhighway – they still don’t have any original ideas). This was to ensure that in the end, whoever was deemed to be the owner, our agreement would be binding on the successful agency.
In arresting Trevor Benn, the supreme legal eagles of the Guyana Police Force (GPF) and their orchestrators, have determined the complex legal matter of ownership of the Ogle lands (for the record, in my humble opinion, the GL&SC had the stronger case, since if you rent someone’s house, and another party files a bankruptcy case against you, the rented house cannot be listed as one of your assets – but hey, what do I know). In one sweeping move, the supreme legal eagles in GPF have now vested all lands once used but not owned by Guysuco to NICIL – these include all dams, parapets, sea defenses abutments, etc. which were used by Guysuco without them having the legal instruments.
Of the matter of Trevor Benn having the authority to sell lands, that is not even a question. On August 7, 2020, to great fanfare, the PPP published and issued an order in the Official Gazette revoking the Commissioner of the Guyana Lands and Surveys Commission (GLSC) authority to sanction the renting and granting of leases and other functions. https://guyanachronicle.com/2020/08/08/president-revokes-commissioner-of-lands-and-surveys-authority-to-sanction-leases/
Who revokes someone’s authority to act and then claim that he never had the authority to act – Duh!!!
The arrest and continued detention of Trevor Benn is a case of victimization and harassment and the continued silence of ALL the ‘ambassadors’ of ‘democracy and human rights’ speaks volumes!!!! If this travesty is not called out in the harshest way, all will be consumed!!!