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Hearing on legality of land grab commission to be held in July

Under scrutiny: David Burt, the Premier (seated far left) with members of the Commission of Inquiry into Historic Land Losses (Photograph supplied)

A hearing into the legality of a Commission of Inquiry into allegations of land grabs will be held in the summer.

The hearing was ordered after Raymond Davis, also known as Khalid Wasi, and Myron Piper, asked for a judicial review of the commission in January last year.

The two claimed that the commission’s refusal to let them give evidence was illegal.

They also claimed that the scope of the commission — laid out by David Burt, the Premier — was too broad and that it acted beyond its powers when it redefined what its remit should be.

In addition, the pair argued that many of the commissioners had conflicts because they had ties to institutions such as banks, realtors and the legal system — organisations that were at the centre of many of the allegations of dispossession.

It took more than a year for Mr Davis and Mr Piper to have their case heard — because all the civil judges on the island had conflicts of interest.

Mr Davis and Mr Piper were able to put their case for a judicial review before a judge last month after Rena Lalgie, the Governor, appointed Hugh Southey, a deputy High Court judge in England, to hear the case.

The review will be held before Mr Justice Southey on July 11 and is expected to last four days.

The commission started its deliberations in September 2020, but was dogged by controversy from the start.

It was forced to adjourn almost immediately when the counsel to the commission, Canadian lawyer Ivan Whitehall, QC, resigned for reasons that have never been made public.

The commission restarted under new counsel, Dirk Harrison, in November 2020.

But two CoI investigators wrote to the commissioners that month with concerns over “the integrity of the commission’s proceedings”.

They also questioned if witnesses had been given sufficient protection and highlighted alleged conflicts of interest among the commissioners.

When the contracts of the two investigators expired in December 2020, they were not renewed, even though the commission continued to sit until May last year.

The commission heard a total of 18 claims from families who said they were dispossessed of property illegally or by “irregular means”.

It rejected 15 claims and ten others were withdrawn.

Another ten were “closed by the commissioners for jurisdiction reasons”.

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Published April 05, 2022 at 7:49 am (Updated April 05, 2022 at 7:49 am)

Hearing on legality of land grab commission to be held in July

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