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Court may have to resolve Rabacca land dispute

Court may have to resolve Rabacca land dispute

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At least one element of the dispute at Rabacca involving businessman Leon “Bigger Biggs” Samuel may have to be resolved in court: the boundaries of Samuel’s lands.{{more}}

Chief engineer Brent Bailey said in accordance with the law, he last week ordered that a gate be removed from Samuel’s property, as it was blocking a public road.

Samuel, however, says the gate was on his private land.

Samuel and Bailey disagree on the size and boundaries of Samuel’s land.

Bailey told SEARCHLIGHT that one of the reasons Samuel’s permit to mine aggregate was revoked, was because he was operating outside of lands he legally owns, an assertion Samuel rebutted on Wednesday.

“I do not know where the chief engineer get that idea that I am mining outside of my property,” Samuel, however, said, referring to his title deed.

The deed, based on a March 3, 1971 plan, says Samuel owns five acres two poles of land “abutted and bounded on the North by the Rabacca Dry River on the South by Langley Park Driver River on the East by lands occupied by Dennis Baptiste and on the West by estate reserve…”

Samuel told SEARCHLIGHT he understands this to mean that the rivers are the boundaries at the north and south, respectively, notwithstanding the acreage.

But Bailey shared with SEARCHLIGHT a government aerial photography map, which shows Samuel occupying 14.97 acres of land and mining in 3.8 acres, when he only has legal title to 5 acres.

“In his mind, all that is his property that is shown in pink (14.97 acres). However, he only has legal title to what is in white (5 acres),” Bailey said.

But Bailey’s account suggests that the discrepancy may have resulted from what he says are changes in surveying practice since 1971, when estate owners sold the portion of land in question, before the government acquired the estate in the 1980s.

“… the survey plan should really take precedence, as opposed to what is spelt out in the deed,” Bailey said.

Asked if the shift in natural boundaries such as rivers, lakes, and the sea, could change the shape and quantum of land, as Samuel noted, Bailey said:

“That is also quite true.”

He further said “when these deeds were made up in the 1950s and 1960s, the surveying practice locally was not as developed as it is now … and, as such, they were able to give rudimentary measurements”.

Bailey said that with the development of “more accurate surveying methodologies and where you can put in physical monuments — boundary points and so forth — you can better establish what is your right.

He said the boundary remains unchanged even if the river shifts course.

“So, the technology has made our rights and entitlements better defined.”

Bailey further said acts of nature might reduce the size of one’s usable lands, for example when a river cuts into one’s land.

“I am saying Mr Samuel does not have this entire block. Does not!” Bailey, however, said of the portion of land between the two rivers that Samuel says he owns.

The Chief Surveyor Adolphus Ollivierre was not in the country on Wednesday and, hence, was unavailable for comment.

However, SEARCHLIGHT presented to a member of Ollivierre’s technical staff a scenario mirroring that involving Samuel.

The staffer referred this publication to the “doctrine of accretion”, an international surveying guideline.

“Generally, when you have lands that have water boundaries, … when that water boundary moves, as long as it is a relatively slow process, automatically, your land boundary tends to move,” the Land and Surveys staffer told SEARCHLIGHT.

Asked if lands between two waterways would belong to the deed holder even if the land is larger than indicated on the deed, the staffer said:

“I would think so. Because, look at the other side, if you boundary with a river and over the years the river erodes your land, you have to settle with what you have. So, it works both ways.

“If the land is eroded and you leave a fairly big portion of it, it’s gone, you can’t get it back and likewise. I understand that when it is gone it is easy for people to understand. They say it is an act of nature. But when you gain something, they figure that you shouldn’t, as if you are getting something that didn’t belong to you in the first instance.”

But the staffer said the law makes provision for such acts of nature.

“… the law works both ways because you can lose at one point and gain at one point. But, generally, you have to deal with those things in court, if they are challenged,” the staffer said. (kentonchance@searchlight.vc)

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