Govt told to pay $260M for TPL land on Water Street
Council already demarcating plots for 538 vendors
July 27, 2003
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There was no official word yesterday from either side on the court’s ruling but the Mayor and City Council (M&CC) yesterday began demarcating spots on the property which is to accommodate approximately 538 stalls. Sources say the council’s decision was based on communication from the Office of the President on Friday that the court’s ruling would be accepted.
The ruling dates back to a 2001 legal proceeding brought by TPL challenging the state’s acquisition of the land. TPL Lawyers Rex McKay, SC and Edward Luckhoo, SC, had filed a constitutional motion in the High Court, seeking a variety of remedies as they said the applicant’s fundamental rights guaranteed under Articles 40, 142 and 149 of the Constitution, were being and were likely to be contravened.
In the motion it was highlighted that President Bharrat Jagdeo had stated that the government would not pay more than $100M for the land. This, the company said, was at odds with the mandatory constitutional provision that where land is compulsorily obtained the government must pay the “current market value,” then estimated by TPL at $457M.
Stabroek News understands that Deputy Mayor Robert Williams called an emergency meeting of the Markets Committee on Friday at City Hall following the court’s ruling, where arrangements for the vendors’ occupation were discussed.
Williams, who is Chairman of the Committee, is said to have reported to the committee that a meeting had been held at the Office of the President with President Jagdeo who undertook to accept the judgement of the court and to pay the compensation to TPL. This information was contained in an Office of the President letter which was dispatched to Justice Roy and copied to the Attorney-General who represented the government at the court hearing. Representatives of the committee set up by the vendors to watch their interests were present at the city council meeting. Committee secretary, Marilyn Converty told Stabroek News yesterday that the vendors were happy with the ruling and would begin business tomorrow. Stabroek News was informed that the vendors were told that they could store their goods at the site until an agreement was worked out on the type of stalls to be built on the property.
It is also understood that certain areas on Water Street have been identified to be cleared following the Deputy Mayor’s announcement. The area is designated to accommodate 538 stalls and city workers could be seen yesterday demarcating 8x6 ft, 6x6 ft and 6x4 ft plots.
“Government acquired the land and the vendors are willing to move,” Converty said, adding, “This is no longer Toolsie Persaud’s mall. This is the vendors’ mall now and as of today we officially take possession of it.”
Following a ruling on April 30, 2001 by the then Chief Justice Desiree Bernard, vendors occupying areas on Water Street were ordered to remove. The government, in response, approached the principals of TPL to negotiate the purchase of the property, to accommodate the vendors.
The company had valued the land and the installation works already done at $457M, while in public utterances government functionaries had said it was worth no more than $100M.
Consequent to this, the government on August 16, 2001 moved to the National Assembly and passed the Acquisition of Lands for Public Purposes (Amend-ment) Act 2001 to acquire land for public work or a public purpose whether or not there were any buildings or erections on it. It was believed that the purpose of the amendment was tailored to the TPL land.
TPL sought declarations that land was not needed by the State for a public purpose; that section 6 A of the Acquisition of Lands for Public Purposes (Amend-ment) Act 2001 was unconstitutional as it was not passed by a two-thirds majority in Parliament and that the money paid or to be paid by the State purportedly as compensation was not based on a scientific professional assessment by an independent valuer of the then market value. TPL also requested a declaration that it was not competent for the government to enter the land until it had paid the applicant the current market value or has lodged it with the Registry of the High Court.
In June, the city began breaking down permanent structures on Water Street in keeping with Justice Bernard’s ruling and vendors were made to move from the pavements after 6 pm. This, they said, caused them hardship as they had nowhere to store their goods.
The facility on the TPL lot is expected to provide them with storage space. (Cecil Griffith and Andre Haynes)