Commissioner and Chief Executive Officer of the Guyana Lands and Surveys Commission, Trevor Benn, has called on those wishing to pin corruption claims against his name to “put up or shut up”, while making it clear that all land dealings under his watch have been above board.
Mr. Benn called a press conference this morning in response to statements made by the Opposition Leader that there was land grabbing after the no-confidence motion by supporters and persons who work with the government.
Benn rubbished that claim from the onset and said while he cannot swear for the personal integrity of all his staff members, he can defend himself against any corrupt claim.
While not naming Jagdeo and only referring to him as “the gentleman”, Benn said the Opposition Leader was dishonest with his claims.
He said in two of the instances in which Jagdeo claimed that acres of land was leased to a former MP and another person affiliated with the government, the leases were actually ordered by the Court and the rulings for the land to be returned to the two persons were handed down in 1996 and 1997. He said while in those two cases, there was a Judgement and order of the Court, the previous government refused to obey the Court order.
Benn said under him, the Lands and Surveys Commission is a law abiding entity and therefore the Court’s ruling was honored.
In the case of African Rights Activist and Economist Eric Phillips, the Lands Commissioner said those approvals were actually done under the former government. He also pointed to leases for businessman Charles Ceres in the Canje area and explained that the lease was done before he took office and it was relinquished by the Ceres himself. The other lease that Ceres was granted is in the Lilliendaal area, where other business people have been granted leases for development.
The Commissioner said with that lease, Ceres is actually paying far more than any of the other business people who were granted leases for the same area under the previous government.
With regard to the Chief Elections Officer, Keith Lowenfield, Mr. Benn said Lowenfield was part of a group of four persons who were granted a lease back in 2004. He said the group relinquished the lease and Lowenfield has since requested that he be granted a lease in another area.
Mr. Benn said he would not go into the details of other persons who were granted leases by the Commission but said any person, including those working in the public sector could be granted leases for land. He said he has not escaped him that all of the persons singled out by Jagdeo at his press conference, were persons of a certain race.
Benn said the Commission under him has granted thousands of leases and those leases cover Guyanese from all over the country.
According to the GLSC Commissioner, when he took the job three years ago, proper records were not being kept and the Commission was left in shambles. He said he has been working overtime to change all of that and there have been successes. He said staff members now are better paid, records are kept better and there is no discrimination on the lease of state lands.
He said there have been efforts by persons outside the Commission to “corrupt” some staff members. He pointed to the maps that Jagdeo displayed at his press conference, noting that none of those copies were legally obtained from the Commission as there are no records of request or payment for them.
Benn suspects that some staffers might have leaked the documents and he said they will be dealt with condignly.