Seafield farm­ers say lives on hold due to de­lay in rul­ing on land re­vo­ca­tion

Stabroek News Sunday - - LETTERS -

A group of Seafield, West Coast Ber­bice rice farm­ers, who filed a court ac­tion chal­leng­ing the re­vo­ca­tion of their land leases, yes­ter­day ex­pressed con­cern at the de­lay in a de­ci­sion be­ing handed down even though fi­nal ar­gu­ments were sub­mit­ted al­most six months ago.

They say that the pro­longed de­lay has put their lives on hold, mak­ing it ex­tremely dif­fi­cult for them to ad­e­quately care for them­selves and their fam­i­lies.

Philip Alexan­der John­son, Ru­pert Black­man, Rawle Miller and Doreen Monah vis­ited Stabroek News yes­ter­day to is­sue an ap­peal for the court to de­liver the awaited rul­ing.

In April last year, the quar­tet was forced to re­turn the court to chal­lenge the re­vo­ca­tion by Pres­i­dent David Granger. They had ear­lier won a le­gal bat­tle against the Ma­haica/Ma­haiconyAbaryA­gri­cul­tural De­vel­op­ment Au­thor­ity (MMA/ADA), which had il­le­gally can­celled their leases for farm­lands at Seafield.

A very vo­cal John­son re­lated that they were in­formed of a date for a de­ci­sion but when they turned up at court they were told that the At­tor­ney Gen­eral had asked for more time as he wanted to in­clude more ar­gu­ments. He said that in April this year, the court was in pos­ses­sion of the ar­gu­ments from all the par­ties in­volved. He said that no date was given but it was clear that the all ar­gu­ments were given and there­fore all that is left is the de­ci­sion from Chan­cel­lor (ag) Yonette Cum­mingsEd­wards.

John­son noted that an­other judge has al­ready given a de­ci­sion in a sim­i­lar case, though it was filed af­ter his. He was mak­ing ref­er­ence to a con­sti­tu­tional mo­tion filed in May this year by Joy­lyn Ni­chol­son and her sons, Gra­tien Ni­chol­son, Vaughn Aaron and Her­man Ni­chol­son fel­low vil­lager Brian Ge­orge and his daugh­ter, Tif­fany Hub­bard. They were is­sued 50year leases in 2014 by for­mer pres­i­dent Don­ald Ramo­tar. Act­ing Chief Jus­tice Rox­ane Ge­orge SC in Au­gust ruled that Pres­i­dent Granger’s can­cel­la­tion of their leases was un­con­sti­tu­tional, given in part that those agree­ments were valid and bind­ing. “That case come and deh and we still deh hey wait­ing,” John­son stressed. “We are poor peo­ple, so we are de­pend­ing on the court’s de­ci­sion so that we can reap again some­day,” he added.

Black­man, who was leased six acres of land, said that he is very frus­trated be­cause he has a fam­ily to main­tain and does not have a steady in­come. He added that he is find­ing it dif­fi­cult to prop­erly look af­ter his two grand­chil­dren, who live with him.

Miller said that he be­gan plant­ing rice to help take care of his five school-aged chil­dren. He said that the only way for­ward is the de­ci­sion from the judge, which he had ex­pected to be de­liv­ered around the same time as the rul­ing on the mo­tion brought by Ni­chol­son et al, given that both court ac­tions arose of the same cir­cum­stances.

Ac­cord­ing to Monah, she took up farm­ing af­ter she was forced to quit her job at MMA/ADA. “It [the de­lay] is af­fect­ing me. That’s why I am here… I have three kids, ages 14, 13 and 8 in school,” she said, be­fore adding that it is hard on her hus­band as he is now the sole bread­win­ner for the fam­ily. She ex­plained that he works for $3,000 a day. “Yuh gotta pay bills, you gotta send the kids to school. It is ev­ery hard…,” she added.

The farm­ers said that they were able to get one crop from the land prior to the re­vo­ca­tion and were pre­par­ing to reap the sec­ond crop when they were vi­o­lently chased off the land, which was later rented out to per­sons out­side of the vil­lage.

They all ex­pressed the hope that this mat­ter will soon be de­ter­mined so that they can move on with their lives.

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