The Supreme Court today issued a decision in the case of agronomist Angel Tzec, who says the Lands Department began to share out parcels of his 250-acre plot in the Cayo District in 2012, following the general elections that year, despite his holding a paid-up lease that he was scheduled to renew with the support of the Department. In court Senior Counsel Said Musa argued that his client had a legitimate expectation that the lease would be renewed and had made conditions possible for it to be reviewed, and the Minister of Natural Resources cannot act arbitrarily as to who gets land but ensure that it is handed to deserving persons. Justice Shona Griffith found that while the lease was active, the Government’s decision was in its commercial capacity rather than legislative and essentially said that as holder of all Crown land, the lease was not a guarantee of ownership. However, the door is open for further challenge, as explained by associate attorney from Musa and Balderamos Wayne Piper, who spoke to us after the decision.
Wayne Piper, Associate, Musa and Balderamos – “The judge had found that on the evidence, Mr. Tzec had a lease. She has found that he had made an application for an extension and by all the evidence it appears that extension, was in fact, approved. He had made further payments in terms of the lease, that were accepted. However, on the point of the matter being on a judicial review, the judge dismissed the decision to dismiss our claim, stating that the government was acting in its commercial capacity, rather than in its government or public law capacity. So the judge pretty much slammed the door on us in terms of this claim but left it open in terms of our findings and in terms of the fact that we are still able to bring another claim for a private law remedy being the ‘breach of lease agreement’ or the ‘breach of representations’ for an extension of the lease term.”
Tzec grasped at the silver lining offered by Justice Griffith and says he hopes to settle matters with the Government, but he also says he will fight on to ensure justice.
Angel Tzec, Lost Lawsuit – “Well, I am actually pleased to say that the judge’s findings was totally positive towards this case because the bottom line is that I still have a lease, right. Because having paid all areas, having gone through the whole process required to go through the payments of the areas and the lease etc. she found out that technically I have a right to the land up to now. The only hitch on the process was that I used the wrong court; I used the public court instead of the private court because a lease basically is a contractual arrangement and I am prepared to go through to the end because I am a warrior, you know, an Indian warrior and I go to the end. So, I think that if we cannot come to an amicable resolution to this problem, we are going to the private court and we are going to appeal and we are going to fight it to the end.”
Deputy Solicitor General Nigel Hawke represented the Ministry. The options open to Tzec are to sue the Government in its private capacity as administrator of lands or try to settle the matter by obtaining another piece of land.