Contract to build vendors' mall inappropriately awarded
-Toolsie Persaud Ltd
Stabroek News
May 8, 2002

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Toolsie Persaud Ltd (TPL) says the government acted inappropriately in its award of a $26 million contract to Courtney Benn Contracting Services to construct a mall on TPL's Water Street property, which the government compulsorily acquired last year but which acquisition is being challenged in court.

A press statement from the firm debunked claims by Head of the Presidential Secretariat, Dr Roger Luncheon, that the acquisition was a done deal and the ongoing court battle would not obstruct construction of the mall as it hinged on compensation and not the acquisition.

"TPL's motion currently before the courts is quite clear that the government's takeover move is a `violation by the state of the applicant's fundamental rights guaranteed under Articles 40, 142 and 149 of the Constitution.' The company is seeking a declaration by the court that the compulsory acquisition of TPL's land is unconstitutional, null, and void and of no legal effect. Moreover, it has been made `in bad faith, is discriminatory and contravenes Article 40 and 149 of the Constitution,'" the statement from TPL said on Monday.

TPL said it held the view that until the issues raised in its application had been determined and resolved by the courts, it would be inappropriate for the government to proceed with its plans for the site.

On Tuesday, Luncheon announced the awarding of the contract for the construction of the mall and made the remarks about the proceedings before the court.

TPL has retained Senior Counsel Rex McKay and Edward Luckhoo to challenge the acquisition by the government and the statement said that McKay expected the case to be ready for hearing now and was awaiting word from the judge, Justice B.S. Roy, on the issue.

TPL's chairman, Toolsie Persaud, declared that the firm had no intention of withdrawing its action and fully intended to proceed with the case. He also questioned the propriety of Luncheon making a statement which was not in keeping with the facts of the case.

TPL's challenge to the acquisition is based on arguments that the state owns and/or has access to several pieces of unoccupied land and properties in and around Water Street area of a similar size to TPL's property, suitable for the very purpose the government intends; that the intended use is not a public purpose; that section 6A of the Acquisition of Lands for Public Purposes (Amendment) Act of 2001 is unconstitutional as it did not have the support of a two-thirds majority in parliament as is required by the Constitution; that the amendment is inconsistent with Article 142 of the Constitution as it failed to set out a scheme to establish the principles on which the compensation for compulsory liquidation is to be determined.

The legal challenge also raises the issue of compensation to be paid for the property and argues that the land cannot be vested in the state until such time as TPL is paid the current market value "based on a scientific and professional valuation and not the arbitrary and capricious value fixed by the government."