PPP ordered to vacate Red House to make way for National Trust

PPP ordered to vacate Red House to make way for National Trust – CapitolNews Report

Red House

President David Granger has ordered that the lease to the Cheddi Jagan Research Centre Incorporated (CJRCI) also called ‘Red House’ be revoked and that the occupants vacate the property by December 31, 2016.

The Head of State handed down these instructions today in a letter to Minister of State, Joseph Harmon, more than one year after the Coalition Government had engaged the CJRCI on the matter of the lease.

This engagement included negotiations for The Red House to provide a national service by housing information on all of the Presidents of Guyana.  Those negotiations proved futile and in an invited comment, Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs, Basil Williams said that after discussions broke down, he sought to determine the legality of the lease agreement.

The National Trust is a government enterprise whose mandate propels its commitment to the preservation and conservation of historic buildings and sites in Guyana.   

President revokes Red House lease; Cheddi Jagan Research Centre ordered to remove by Old Year’s Day

Red House

President David Granger has ordered that the lease for the building known as The Red House to the Cheddi Jagan Research Centre Incorporated (CJRCI) be revoked and that the occupants vacate the property by December 31, 2016, the Ministry of the Presidency announced.

“Having carefully considered the advice of the Minister of Legal Affairs, President Granger has concluded that it would be in the public’s interest for the lease issued to the CJRCI to be revoked and has also directed the Minister of State that the building be assigned to house “The National Trust of Guyana, its staff, stores and equipment”, currently housed in the Valerie Rodway Building on Carmichael Street, with effect from January 1, 2017, where it would be better able to fulfill its mandate to preserve Guyana’s national patrimony and to promote an appreciation for the nation’s heritage,” the Ministry of the Presidency said.

The Head of State handed down these instructions Thursday in a letter to Minister of State, Mr. Joseph Harmon, more than one year after the Coalition Government had engaged the CJRCI on the matter of the lease.  This engagement included negotiations for The Red House to provide a national service by housing information on all of the Presidents of Guyana.  Those negotiations proved futile and in an invited comment, Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs, Mr. Basil Williams said that after discussions broke down, he sought to determine the legality of the lease agreement.

Government said the National Trust would be relocated from a building adjacent to State House on Carmichael Street to Red House after the CJRC vacates the property.

Currently, offices of the Ministry of the Presidency, including its Communication Section, are housed at the National Trust building.

Red House, which was once the official residence of then Premier and People’s Progressive Party (PPP) Founder-Leader, Dr. Cheddi Jagan, houses several of his works and is used by that party for panel discussions and other events.

The Valerie Rodway Building on Carmichael Street, Georgetown that houses the National Trust.

In a statement issued on Wednesday, December 28, 2016, Minister Williams said his investigations revealed that the lease held by the CJRCI is invalid on several grounds, including that there is no evidence that the President of the day had sanctioned it. On March 30, 2012 The Red House lease agreement was initiated without the approval of either the President of the Day or The National Trust of Guyana, which is in contravention of Section 10 of the Lands Department Act Chapter 59:01, rendering it void. The statement also said that on March 21, 2000, the CJRCI was incorporated as “a not-for-profit company” by late former President Janet Jagan, her daughter Ms. Nadira Jagan-Brancier and former President Donald Ramotar, who was then the General Secretary of the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C), with the aim of establishing a library and research facility to contain the works and documents owned by the late President Cheddi Jagan.

In that same year, the lease agreement among the parties; the Government of Guyana, The National Trust of Guyana and the CJRCI was drawn up but not executed. The Attorney General further said that on May 3, 2006 Mr. Ramotar applied to the Commissioner of Lands and Surveys (CL&S) for a lease of the property, which comprises Lots 65, 66 and 67 High Street, Kingston, Georgetown, on behalf of the CJRCI but although a file had been opened in the Guyana Lands and Surveys Commission (GL&SC), approval had not been granted. The application was then resubmitted on August 30, 2010, on a revised schedule, to the then Office of the President. On January 11, 2011, the resubmitted application was also not approved as there is no evidence of any signature of the President of the Day on the purported schedule, only those of Mr. Doorga Persaud, the then CL&S, and the Manager of Land Administration, Mr. Enrique Monize.

However, on March 30, 2012, a lease entered by the CL&S on behalf of the Government of Guyana, and by Mr. Ralph Ramkarran, S.C., on behalf of the CJRCI, was issued under Section 10 of the Lands Department Act, Chapter 59:01 for property with a duration of 99 years, commencing on January 1, 2012 at an annual rental of $12,000 for the first three years, and with the proviso that the Government could revise the annual rent payable at the end of every three years.

In the statement, the Attorney General said that the 99-year lease “was not executed in the manner of a transport, that is advertised and passed before the Court, nor was it filed as of record and annotation made against the Property by the Registrar of Deeds.” The statement further noted that in Section 4 of the State Lands Act Chapter 62:01 said that State Lands can only be converted into Government Lands with the sanction of the President of the Day and on the terms and conditions determined by this office bearer and there is no formal evidence of sanction or approval by the then President.

The Red House is established in The National Trust of Guyana Monuments Register as a Public Building/National Monument/Heritage Site. The Trust was established under The National Trust Act Chapter 20:03 Laws of Guyana, which is an “Act to make provision for the preservation of monuments, sites, places and objects of historic interest or national importance”. Its main responsibility is the preservation of all monuments of Guyana, which under the Act includes “any building, structure or object or other work of man…”  The National Trust also “shall not transfer, mortgage, lease, charge or dispose of any land without the approval of the Minister,” according to its webpage.

The Attorney General maintains that all the parties knew that The Red House “at all material times was a heritage site, both building and lands under the National Trust Act Chapter 20:03”. Further, the CL&S is the custodian of all Government Lands…”that is why there must be evidence of the President approving leases under Section 10 of the Lands Department Act Chapter 59:01”.

On August 21, 2015, Minister Harmon, in his Budget presentation, had told the Parliament that the PPP/C had privatised the CJRCI and had been leasing the property for a mere $1,000 per month. The Minister had also noted that while in government, the PPP/C Administration had spent large sums renovating The Red House, a property of the State until 2012, then renamed it CJRCI. Minister Harmon had also said that all the sitting executives of the CJRCI are all connected to the PPP/C party and that discussions between the government and the CJRCI and others on the matter had been futile.

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Comments

  • Clyde Duncan  On January 4, 2017 at 12:34 am

    I don’t like to comment on the politics in Guyana – I don’t know enough about it; but I know this much – the Cheddi Jagan Research Centre should be a National Heritage and should be left to continue to serve the community at “Red House”.

  • Arnold Girdharry  On January 4, 2017 at 6:21 pm

    If President Granger wants to have a united Guyana, he is using poor judgement in the CJRCI matter. The symbolic conclusion in this action points a finger at further division in this already-divided country, hurtling down the road that the British intended for us to travel.

  • Clyde Duncan  On January 7, 2017 at 11:09 am

    A Facebook post by Dr. Vibert Cambridge – Author of “Musical Life in Guyana: ..”

    The Red House Opportunity …

    The current contretemps about the Cheddi Jagan Research Centre will hopefully direct the nation’s attention to the state of the nation’s primary documents. They are in extremely poor shape. By way of example, most, if not all of the films created by various state agencies (Government Information Service (GIS), the Ministry of Information, and the Film Centre) that documented the 1966–1992 era are non-existent in Guyana.

    A 2013 examination of a sample of the nation’s audio documents stored at the Bertie Chancellor Library, NCN; NCERD; University of Guyana’s Library; National Library; the audio-visual collection of the Ministry of Culture, Youth, and Sport; and the National Cultural Centre stated that “95.84 percent of all assets exhibited some attributes of potential media deterioration, however minor in many cases.” More than 33 percent of the sample revealed “backing loss, blocking, mold/fungus, and delamination.”

    In the preface to her 1994, “Crowns of Glory, Tears of Blood: The Demerara Slave Rebellion of 1823,” Emilia Viotti da Costa paid tribute to the staff of the “University of Guyana Library, the Public Library in Georgetown, and the National Archives, where exceptionally dedicated people struggle every day against all odds to maintain the records of the past.”

    My own experience conducting research in Guyana for my 2015 book, “Musical Life in Guyana: History and Politics of Controlling Creativity,” confirms this dedication and revealed the really perilous state of many of the print documents in the National Archives.

    The lessons we can learn from studying the lives and times of our presidents demand that we be scrupulous in the collection and storage of their documents.

    These documents are crucial as we attempt to better understand the cluster of persistent problems that have plagued our society since the birth of the modern Guyanese nation with the emancipation of enslaved Africans in 1838.

    Executive Presidents and, before them, governors have dominated national life. Their approaches to governance have determined contemporary Guyanese political life. Upcoming generations with access to digital content will find these collections invaluable. So, as we experience the current Red House moment, let’s not get distracted from the crucial national task — the preservation of the nation’s memory. This is the time for a comprehensive strategy.

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