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Govt hands out huge tracts of State lands

first_imgOpposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo pointing to one of the areas that were allegedly handed out to a staff of the Ministry of the Presidency…Govt, SARA & GECOM officials among beneficiariesOpposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo is calling on President David Granger to answer for a massive distribution of prime state lands to employees of the Ministry of the Presidency as well as to cronies in the PNC-led A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) fraction of the coalition Government and officials of the States Assets Recovery Agency (SARA), which were supposed to recover state assets.The lands were all strategically located to massively benefit the beneficiaries from the coming oil boom.Speaking at his weekly press conference on Thursday, Jagdeo revealed that leases of mammoth plots of prime real estate were issued by the Guyana Lands and Surveys Commission (GL&SC) after the December passage of the Opposition-sponsored No-Confidence Motion that caused the Government to fall.One such person benefiting from these giveaways is the Head of the Project Management Office (PMO) at the Ministry of the Presidency, Marlon Bristol, whom Jagdeo said got one acre of land at Mocha, East Bank Demerara, in February 2019 and another 12 acres in Linden in June 2019.Pointing to a map of the issued land, the Opposition Leader explained that the land in Linden is in an area known as Dalalwala – which was the proposed site to build the industrial estate for Linden and the potential site for a deep-water facility.“So (Bristol) got 12.6 acres there in the prime area of Dalalwala, where a potential deep-water facility or shore base facility, very lucrative shore base facility, could go,” he noted, adding that if sold, those lands would carry massive sums of money because of the oil companies’ interest in such locations.Jagdeo further revealed that in February this year, Bristol also got another 80 acres at Bohemia in Berbice, on shore from where the much touted deep-water harbour project was earmarked to be constructed and other lucrative shore base facilities could be located.Additionally, the Opposition Leader disclosed that the husband of a staff within the Department of Environment at the Ministry of the Presidency, Charles Ceres, received, along with others, some 1,297.1 acres in the Canje Creek last year and then recently another 112 acres at Bohemia, the same deep-water harbour location in Berbice.He added that there were two other sets of land issued to this person, including 5000 acres at an unknown location, and another set of land at Liliendaal, Greater Georgetown.Furthermore, Jagdeo highlighted that a senior official of SARA allegedly cashed in on the land grab with 10 acres on File No. 411412/522B and another acre in Mocha, recently issued as well.Another beneficiary Jagdeo named was advisor to SARA, Eric Phillips, who had denied back in February that he ever applied for, or received any, 3000 acres of lands as being claimed.But on Thursday, the Opposition Leader pointed to File No. 321132/1604 which showed 1000 acres in the Essequibo River was issued to Phillips in April 2019 and File No. 3312317 for another 1000 acres in the Demerara River.“So we’ve established already that three agencies – Department of Environment, PMO and SARA – all reporting to the President… had been beneficiaries to large tracts of land in strategic locations in the last few months alone… Consistent with the theme, and you would see it, everywhere that there is strategic locations now for the possibility of shore based facilities, etc., there is a mad rush to give out the lands,” he asserted.In fact, Jagdeo further noted that at the Best Foreshore, West Coast Demerara, some 50 acres was given away as well as another 20 acres, each in the Demerara River.“So, we have now given out 40 acres in the Demerara River itself that is from the Harbour Bridge almost all the way to the mouth of the River on the western bank of the river,” he noted.These giveaways were all linked to Shawn Hopkinson and are reflected in File No. 332232/3 for Schoonoord Foreshore, No. 3322421/3 for Goed Fortuin, and No. 332231/30 for Best Foreshore.One name, according to the Opposition Leader, that keeps popping up in these giveaways is the company Great Wall Incorporated, which links to Saratu Phillips, who attended the surveys for all three allocations on behalf of the two companies awarded these acres.Saratu Phillips was involved in the controversial Parking Meter Project and is also among the principals in the company Gold Bar Development and Consultant Inc., which was granted license to export gold last year.Last year, Natural Resources Minister Raphael Trotman had told the National Assembly that Gold Bar Development and Consultant Inc., which is headed by Shawn Hopkinson, Maurice Hopkinson and Saratu Phillips, is the newest licensed dealer having been granted a license.This connection, Jagdeo noted, leads right back to the Ministry of the Presidency and the allocation of these lands.Land given out to friendsApart from this, the Opposition Leader also revealed acres of lands issued to an ex-PNC parliamentarian and his relatives, who got over 10,000 acres in the Pomeroon River, as well as two other unidentified persons who got 1400 acres and 1083 acres respectively.“So, in a matter of a few months, they would have given out land in the Pomeroon River to three individuals, more lands than the PPP gave out in 23 years in the Pomeroon…,” Jagdeo stressed.Another PNC member, who also holds a senior post in the sport department was also allegedly given plots of land in Aubrey Barker Road.Meanwhile, another alleged giveaway, which Jagdeo said is quite worrying, is to a top ranking official of GECOM.“Something that is very, very worrying; and I hope that this does not influence the individual if the Government decided to give him the land to influence his decisions in relation to elections. Keith Lowenfield, in February last year, along with Ceres and others, was part of the 1297 acres, and just in June of this year, this month, he got 216 acres on File No. 012211/599 at Milly’s Hideout (in Linden), and then two acres at Mocha and so this is a worrying one too, very worrying,” the Opposition Leader posited.He noted that these show a pattern at the Office of the President and the Lands and Survey’s deep involvement. In fact, the Opposition Leader noted that there are more such deals being made, not only at GL&SC, but at the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission (GGMC) and at the National Industrial and Commercial Investment Limited (NICIL) with the sugar lands.To this end, Jagdeo is calling on President David Granger to explain the issuances of these large plots of land, especially to those working within his office at the Ministry of the Presidency. He noted that for too long, the Head of State has remained silent or claimed lack of knowledge about these corrupt acts within his Ministry.“This has to stop and today, I want to show that this is not about the other agencies. This is about the Presidency itself and that the corruption emanates from his office, a lot of it. And so, I’m hoping that he will be forced to respond to these issues and he has to answer whether he knows what is being done in his name, whether he agrees to the issues, and if he does agree to what I will reveal, he needs to inform the public of the reasons why his office is doing this because transparency is vital for us and the President is placed on this pedestal as though he is not corrupt and so he needs to give answers if I give him the benefit of doubt,” Jagdeo stated.According to the Opposition Leader, these land giveaways will be reviewed if the PPP gets into office and find any act of corruption. Meanwhile, the Lands and Surveys Commission has since called a press conference on Thursday, where officials are expected to respond to these revelations.last_img read more