25 litigants seek over $48 million in damages from co-operative society
January 12, 2020
…over 350 acre land allocationA group of 25 men and women have taken the Johns/Clifton Co-operative Land Society Limited to court in a bid to reclaim some 350 acres of land the applicants say was unlawfully allocated by the State. The fixed-date application matter has five respondents, namely: the Social Protection Ministry’s Commissioner for Co-operative Development; the Guyana Sugar Corporation Incorporated (GuySuCo); the National Industrial and Commercial Investments Limited (NICIL); the John/Clifton Co-operative Land Society Limited, and the Attorney General of Guyana.Attorney-at-law Anil NandlallThe applicants include Lennox Jaipaul, Patrica Mohabir, Jaiwantie Sanichar and twenty-two others.According to the applicants’ legal documents, they were all members of the Land Co-operative Society and they own and occupy certain portions of land located at Johns and Clifton Villages in Berbice Guyana. They outlined that the Johns/Clifton Co-operative Land Society entered a 10-year lease with the Port Mourant Company on June 14, 1965 for a piece of land amounting to 350 acres in Clifton and Johns State Lands. They said that even though the lease has expired and they did not apply for a new lease, they continued to live, cultivate and rear animals on the property under contention.The 25 applicants say the Co-operative Society approached the Government and the Central Housing and Planning Authority (CH&PA) “with a view to acquiring title to the lands which they occupy”. They stated that while they were given transports for portions of land which they occupy, they continued to plant rice and reared livestock and cattle on lands for which they had no transport.According to legal documents, the Society became defunct after 2012, and in 2017, the contested property was purportedly transferred under GuySuCo’s ownership. However, the applicants contend, the transfer “erroneously” included portions of their transported land, where some of the houses are located.They also claim that, in 2017, their Co-operative Society was resuscitated without the knowledge of most of the previous members. Further, a general meeting was held in November of that year with the society’s seven members, including Chairman Asheem Ali; Chandra Sohan, Secretary; and Treasurer Chandradatt Ramotar.The 25 applicants claim that these new members entered their land allegedly armed with weapons, and forcefully evicted persons, with many of them being in the midst of rice harvesting and planting other crops. They added that the newly constituted Society entered a new lease with NICIL, dated March 1, 2018, on large portions of land that the applicants claim belong to them.The applicants outlined that the land leased was not owned by the Guyana Government, and as such, this was in contravention of Article 142 of the Constitution, which speaks to the fundamental right and freedom against the deprivation of property.They also stated that the new members are encroaching on their land, and have allegedly verbally and physically assaulted them. They add that they suffered losses to some of their cash crops, fruit trees and crops when a section of the land was bulldozed.Among several reliefs for which the applicants are seeking are petitioning the High Court to have the 350 acres Plantation Clifton and Johns of State Lands on the Corentyne Coast, Berbice declared “wrongfully and unlawfully” allocated by Johns/Clifton Co-operative. They also want a declaration that the farming, bulldozing or occupying “constitutes trespass on portions of land owned by the Applicants”.The 25 applicants also want to nullify the reallocation of their land under the new lease agreement. The affected parties are also seeking damages for breach of their rights under Article 142 of the Constitution of Guyana. They are also petition the court to issue an injunction restraining the Society and their representatives and agents from “entering upon, remaining, occupying, farming, bulldozing, occupying” the applicants use of the land. Moreover that injured parties are seeking damages in excess of forty-eight million dollars, court costs, and other reliefs the court sees fit.The Applicants are represented by attorneys Mohabir Anil Nandlall, Manoj Narayan, Sasha S. Mahadeo-Narayan, Rajendra R. Jaigobin and Anuradha Deodatsingh. The matter comes up before Justice D. Younge on October 25.