The move by the Government to take over the operations of the Berbice River Bridge on Monday has been criticized by former Attorney General, Anil Nandlall who deems it as “authoritarian.”
Nandlall, in a statement on Monday evening, noted “rather than negotiate from a position that recognizes and respect private property, this Government has chosen the big-stick method of bullyism and the virtual stealing of private property.”
As such, he said this brings “irreversible damage to Guyana’s image as an investment destination.”
The Former Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs, who is now an Opposition Parliamentarian, said no prudent investor would want to invest its scarce finances into a nation where the Government’s first resort is confiscation of their investments.
The Government announced on Monday that an order has been issued by Minister of Public Infrastructure, David Patterson declaring that the Government will take over the maintenance and operation of the Berbice River Bridge “hopefully” for a temporary period.
This move follows a demand by the Berbice Bridge Company Incorporated (BBCI) for an extension to its current concessionaire period for an additional 19 years in order to stop the implementation of its exorbitant toll increases announced on October 16.
Nandlall described the APNU+AFC Government’s move as “nothing short of the State compulsorily acquiring private property without any expressed intention to pay adequate compensation.”
He likened the move to actions taken by the People’s National Congress (PNC) –the major party in the coalition Government, during the 70’s and 80’s when private properties were compulsorily acquired.
The Public Infrastructure Minister on Monday said he does not see the dispute between the Ministry and the Berbice Bridge Company (BBCI) coming to a swift end but promised to continue engaging the company during this period.
See Nandlall’s full statement here:
The breaking news that the government has taken possession of the Berbice River Bridge under the guise that they are acting “in the interest of public safety” must have shocked the conscience of every law abiding citizen of this land. This is nothing short of the State compulsorily acquiring private property without any expressed intention to pay adequate compensation at market value as is required by Article 142 of the Constitution of the Cooperative Republic of Guyana. Article 142 is designed to protect private property against the State expropriating the same without compensation.
It would be recalled that during the 70’s and 80’s numerous private properties were compulsorily acquired, nay stolen, by the then PNC administration right across the length and breadth of this land.
These properties include what is now Citizens Bank, Hope Estate Limited, a huge tract of land at Liliendaal, Takuba Lodge, Achilibar Villas and dozens more. In many instances, no monies were paid to the owners of these properties and in the cases where they were payments, the price was pegged to a 1939 valuation as was the law during that period.
This atrocity was obviously inspired by an ideology that has no respect for the rule of law, the constitutional rights of the citizenry and driven by the unbridled arrogance of those in Government then who felt that this entire country was their private property.
It was until the 1999-2001 Constitutional reform process that the Constitution was amended to provide for the prompt payment of market value for properties compulsorily acquired by the State.
Again, the PNC is in Government and private property has become once again under siege. That ideology and unbridled arrogance to which I have made reference are back. The nation is very much aware of the compulsorily acquisition of the leasehold interest of over 50 rice farmers whose 50 year old leases were revoked by President David Granger without any compensation being paid to these farmers.
Readers will also recall the seizure of core homes from single mothers who own these properties by Certificates of Title and Transports. Fortunately, the High Court has declared all these seizures of private property as unconstitutional. You will recall also the blatant attempt by Attorney General, Basil Williams, to confiscate two pieces of private property adjacent to the Attorney General Chambers on Carmichael Street.
Every week dozens of leases for State/Government lands are being revoked by various agencies of State. As a matter of policy, the Central Housing and Planning Authority is cancelling Transports and Certificates of Title of persons who are unable to construct buildings on house lots sold to them under the previous administration.
I have written profusely over the past 3 years on these matters contending that these are all incontrovertible evidence of authoritarianism.
Again, with the Berbice Bridge, we see the naked authoritarian nature of this Government being displayed. Rather than negotiate from a position that recognizes and respect private property, this Government has chosen the big-stick method of bullyism and the virtual stealing of private property.
This act of the Government will certainly cause irreversible damage to Guyana’s image as an investment destination. No prudent investor would pump scarce finance resources into a nation where the Government first resort is confiscation of their investments.
I have regularly warned that Burnhamism is back and the reins of Government are in the hands of authoritarians. Those who doubt me, do so at their own peril.
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