National Assembly - Lease agreements regarding properties on reclaimed land to become “more robust” | 07 August 2019
The issue on the manner in which properties on reclaimed land are leased and even sold was a hot topic yesterday in the National Assembly.
It was the leader of the opposition, Wavel Ramkalawan, who brought a private notice question requesting the Minister for Habitat, Land, Infrastructure and Land Transport Pamela Charlette to answer queries relating to the government’s efforts to repossess undeveloped properties on these reclaimed islands.
His first question to Minister Charlette was how far her ministry has reached in its negotiations to take back certain parcels of land leased to Emerald Holdings, owned in parts by former First Lady Sarah René.
This comes after more than a year since the government announced that it is negotiating with Emerald Holdings in this regard.
Minister Charlette explained that her ministry has been in discussions with the company since July 2018, following which the relevant files were sent to the Attorney General’s office for further legal considerations into the contractual agreements between the company and the ministry.
She further explained that government policy states that land designated for residential use can be sold on freehold (meaning that you own the building and the land it stands on outright) such as is the case for house on Perseverance.
Meanwhile reclaimed land that has been classified for commercial, tourism, industrial or recreational use, or even mixed use parcels, are leased.
“It is not common government practice to sell these commercial use lands but rather we lease them,” Minister Charlette stressed.
Nonetheless, the minister acknowledged that four parcels of land located on reclaimed land and which was meant for commercial use were sold off instead of leased, as should be the norm.
The first, V9046 in Roche Caiman, was sold in 1996 and later transferred to a company called Downtown Properties Ltd and the second, V16938 on Ile du Port, was sold off to Jj Spirit in 2008.
According to Minister Charlette parcel H12365, also located at Ile du Port, was transferred onto the Seychelles Pension Fund in 2016 for a government-led project.
The fourth, V21015 at Roche Caiman, was sold to a Seychellois in exchange for another parcel in Plaisance where the government is currently constructing two blocks of flats for its housing schemes.
“The first two properties were sold without any conditions which allows the government to take them back. In this case, the law does not allow the government to retrieve those properties that were sold and not leased since the proprietors have the Constitutional right to develop their land.”
In response to Hon. Ramkalawan’s second question on measures being undertaken to better regulate properties on reclaimed land, Minister Charlette noted that the Attorney General is working towards making lease agreements more robust.
“Previous lease agreements were less robust than what the government is now working on. For instance, it did not have set conditions – known as development covenants – to force someone who has yet to undergo development off the property and neither did it set a time frame for these developments,” she remarked.
“This is what makes it hard for us to take back these properties,” Minister Charlette continued.
Her ministry’s primary objectives to ensure better use of the properties also includes revision of the State Land and River Reserve Act, and development of policies guiding good practices on leasehold land.
Hon. Ramkalawan also queried on the owner of parcel V1148, which is around 8995m² to which he learnt that the beachfront property belongs to Laura and Mukesh Valabhji.
It was leased on December 13, 2003 to Caiman Properties Limited.