The St Vincent and the Grenadines government made an order and gazetted it, enabling the acquisition of the farm lands at Argyle for use of building the Argyle International Airport. A compulsory acquisition of farmers’ lands and houses on which to build the said airport.
Today there are still 60 farmers who have not been paid for their land. Some have been waiting for six years to be paid. Some of those waiting have died whilst waiting for payment that would have enabled them to seek overseas treatment and in some cases treatment that may well have saved their lives. What some may consider as murder whilst being robbed of their land. Not only have they not been paid for their lands, they have lost the income from the crops they used to grow.
They have spent their little savings, and besides that some lost everything when many of financial institutes in SVG failed, compounding their misery. Some of these families had children that wanted to go overseas and study, children who became victims because of the government’s robbery of their parents and grandparents. Victims in a country that boasts an education revolution.
One man that I know wanted to go abroad and get treatment for his diabetic condition, reluctantly went into the hospital here and got that nasty foot rotting infection that our hospital is deeply infected with. You take your life in your hands when you enter the hospital here for any reason, especially if you have an open wound. That man lost his foot when his family believed if he had gone abroad in good time, his foot would have been saved. The hospital here just did not have the drugs or treatments that are available in almost any other country elsewhere. But it seems they have got a ready supply of scalpels and bone saws.
If these well-shafted owners ever get paid, they cannot demand any interest or compensation if it’s owed to them by the government. But what if it is owed to them by IADCL, a limited liability company? The International Airport Development Company Limited [IADCL] is a private limited liability company, wholly owned by the government of St Vincent and the Grenadines. It was incorporated under the Companies Act of St Vincent and the Grenadines.
It appears to me that the government made the order for the land to be taken, yet the IADC negotiated and agreed the price to be paid for the land, and the IADC should pay the landowners. But IADC are unable to pay the landowners unless the government keeps them in sufficient funds to pay the landowners. The IADC are unable to take loans so the government has been the signatory for all the loans, at least I hope it’s all the loans and includes those from our NIS.
We really require clarification of why a limited liability company is required. Would a bankruptcy or forced liquidation or receivership by the company mean that all those landowners and others owed by the company would not get paid? Or is the government responsible? Who is responsible?
I am not sure that if the company is 100% owned by the government and is under the ultimate control of the government if that is little more than what would be classed as a ‘close company’ -- just an extension of the government hiding under the cover of limited liability but which if looked at carefully is a sham set up for the government to remove liability from themselves.
I suppose as a separate company it makes it easy if it was decided to sell the company and its assets [the airport] for $10 when the whole thing goes boss-eyed.
We must also consider if taking the people lands and not paying them is unconstitutional and if there a serious breach of constitutional law, under protection from deprivation of property. Even basic human rights have been violated by this Marxist-led ULP government.
PROTECTION OF FUNDAMENTAL RIGHTS AND FREEDOMS
Fundamental rights and freedoms
1. Where every person in Saint Vincent is entitled to the fundamental rights and freedoms, that is to say, the right, whatever his race, place of origin, political opinions, color, creed or sex, but subject to respect for the rights and freedoms of others and for the public interest, to each and all of the following, namely-
c. protection for the privacy of his home and other property and from deprivation of property without compensation, the provisions of this Chapter shall have effect for the purpose of affording protection to those rights and freedoms subject to such limitations of that protection as are contained in those provisions, being limitations designed to ensure that the enjoyment of the said rights and freedoms by any person does not prejudice the rights and freedoms of other or the public interest.
Protection from deprivation or property
6. (1) No property of any description shall be compulsorily taken possession of, and no interest in or right over property of any description shall be compulsorily acquired, except for a public purpose and except where provision is made by a law applicable to that taking of possession or acquisition for the payment, within a reasonable time, of adequate compensation.
The government has taken to hiding behind the wording in the constitution ‘within a reasonable time’ which in my opinion anything over a year is unreasonable and unconstitutional. But I am not a judge so therefore I cannot say what is legally acceptable as a reasonable time. It’s impossible for any unbiased judiciary to agree with the government over this matter.
I have asked IADC in the past why they are not paying the landowners. I was told because they did not have the money to do so. I then asked why not. They told me they were reliant on the government giving them sufficient funds and earmarking such funds for that specific use to be able to pay the landowners. In other words, the government is at fault. But to my way of thinking, surely the first part of any development phase is to pay for the land you wish to develop. Could you imagine for one moment what the cry would be from the government if the boot was on the other foot, or if it was a private company acting in such a way?
In general case-law in the absence of an expressed or fixed time established by the parties to an agreement or contract, any time which is not manifestly unreasonable under the circumstances. For example, if a contract does not fix a specific time for performance, the law will infer [and impose] a reasonable time for such performance. This is defined as that amount of time which is fairly necessary, conveniently, to do what the contract requires to be done, as soon as circumstances permit. The buyer not having the money to pay would not be an acceptable reason for non-performance or delay. The reasonableness or unreasonableness of time used or taken by a party may be the subject of judicial review in light of the nature, purpose, and circumstances of each case.
My advice to those who have been taken advantage of over their land should get together and make a committee, employ a solicitor who they feel is not holding a positive bias for the government and put the solicitor on a slice of that which is recovered. If you cannot find a decent local solicitor who you trust, I can recommend several from Barbados or Trinidad.
For you people in the Diaspora, our farmers are not so commercially advanced as you and would not act in the way that you do, but that is no reason at all why the government should take advantage of them.
All the friends of the airport in the Diaspora should get together and demand of the government that they pay the landowners. If you have any decency in you and are real Vincentian patriots, not ULP patriots, that is something different. You can I suppose be both, but in this case you cannot, please help these people get what is owed to them, their families and children are suffering at the hands of this government.
Don’t forget Ralph Gonsalves tells us all he loves us. Well if he loves the landowners at Argyle he will pay them when he reads this opinion, at least within 14 days of publication. If he doesn’t, we may assume, I suppose, that he doesn’t love them after all; it was simply another lie.
Self appointed and upgraded to keeper of the bugle