Paul Bérenger réclame des précisions au ministre Kasenally

PNQ La vente des ex-maisons de la CHA et des terrains de l’Etat a fait l’objet de la PNQ du leader de l’opposition, le  mercredi, 20 novembre. Adressée au ministre Kasenally, Paul Bérenger a voulu savoir si l’avis du SLO a changé après 2005 sur la vente des terrains où ont été construits des maisons de l’ex-CHA. Ensuite il a demandé au ministre si tous les propriétaires des  maisons de l’ex-CHA ont reçu leur titre de propriété concernant la maison et le terrain. Finalement, il a voulu connaître si l’amendement qui sera apporté à la State Land Act concernera aussi des personnes qui ont construit une maison sur un  terrain appartenant à l’Etat.

 Dans sa réponse le ministre  Kasenally a, d’abord, rappelé l’avis du Parquet datant de 2005 sur la vente des terres de l’Etat. Le State Law Office (SLO) avait estimé que les terres de l’Etat ne peuvent être vendues sauf si cela relève de l’intérêt public ou cela se fait en échange d’un autre terrain. Il a indiqué que 9 935 occupants de maisons ex-CHA ont obtenu leur titre de propriété. Quant aux pas géométriques sur lesquels se trouvent des maisons ex-CHA, des amendements constitutionnels ne sont pas nécessaires, a-t-il dit, en affirmant que des amendements seront apportés, lors du vote du Miscellanous Finance Bill 2013, pour permettre à  17 000 familles de 600 zones résidentielles des sites and services  de bénéficier des terrains qu’elles occupent.

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The Leader of the Opposition (Mr P. Bérenger) (by Private Notice) asked the Minister
of Housing and Lands whether, in regard to the sale of ex-CHA houses and of State Land, he will
state –
(a) if the advice of the State Law Office on the sale of State Land on which stand the
ex-CHA houses to the owners thereof has changed after 2005;
(b) if all the owners of the ex-CHA houses have received the title deed in respect of the
houses and of the State Land on which the houses stand, and
(c) the amendments that will be brought to the State Land Act to allow those families
who have a housing unit on leased land belonging to the State to buy the land,
indicating if same will apply to the houses standing on sites and serviced lots.
Dr. Kasenally: Mr Speaker, Sir, as the House is aware the State Lands Act provided as at
July 2005 that, I quote –  
“No State Land shall be sold unless it is in the public interest to do so and in
exchange of another portion of land.”
Conscious of this legal obstacle to its policy of democratisation of access to land
ownership, Government spelt out at paragraph 43 of its Programme 2005-2010, its intention to
grant greater and wider access to land.
Government was very explicit in its determination to translate this intention into reality
by stating at paragraph 188, I quote –
“Government will remove the legal and socio-economic constraints to equitable
access to land ownership.”
It is in line with these commitments that soon after coming into office, this Government
through the Ministry of Housing and Lands started consultations with the State Law Office and
other stakeholders as regards the proposal to sell to the owners of the State Land on which stands
ex-CHA Housing Units.
Following this, a policy decision was taken on 30 September 2005, requesting the
Minister of Housing and Lands to look into the possibility of selling to the lessees of State Land
on which the ex-CHA houses stood.
On 03 October 2005, a Steering Committee at the Ministry of Housing and Lands started
to explore the possibility of selling the State Land to the concerned lessees. A first Meeting was
held at the Solicitor General’s Office on 09 November 2005 in the presence of officers of the
Ministry of Finance and my Ministry whereby we were requested to submit preliminary drafting
instructions which were then discussed and submitted to enable the State Law Office to
formulate a working document for the proposed legislation.
Regular discussions, consultations were further pursued to iron out certain pertinent
issues in respect of legal aspects, financial implications and survey matters.
A first draft Bill was prepared and in March 2007 a draft State Lands Amendment Bill
was approved for introduction in the National Assembly.  However matter was discussed further
and in March 2007 a draft Bill was circulated and was followed by extensive discussions
regarding the sale price of the land.  Subsequently, on 16 March 2007, Cabinet agreed to the sale
of State Land on which stand ex-CHA houses at a uniform price of Rs2,000.   
Furthermore, at the same meeting of Cabinet it was decided, inter alia, to consider the
sale of State Land to other building site lessees on the same basis as for the ex-CHA house
owners.  We have not seen any inconsistency or any change in the advice of the State Law Office
from 2005.
As a matter of fact, prior to 2005, there is no record whatsoever either in the Ministry of
Housing and Lands or at the State Law Office of any advice having been sought on the subject of
sale of State Land on which stands ex-CHA housing unit.
Mr Speaker, Sir, regarding part (b) of the question, there are some 19,442 ex-CHA
housing units which are found on 177 housing estates all over the island.   
Some 14,605 applications have been received for the purchase of their land.  
Mr Speaker, Sir, as at date, some 12,314 Letters of Intent for the purchase of land have
been issued.
In March 2007, the State Lands Amendment Bill was debated in Parliament and passed
and the State Lands Amendment Act came in force on 04 April 2007.
Mr Speaker, Sir, in regard to part (a) of the Question, in the matter of the legality of sale
of State Lands, the State Law Office, according to official records has not today or earlier
changed any legal advice it gave in 2005.  Advice given on 09 November 2005 by the State Law
Office to the Ministry of Housing and Lands was to the effect that the sale of land on which
stood CHA houses would impact on a number of laws, including the State Lands Act.
On 15 June 2007, the State Law Office tendered advice to the effect that the amendment
to the State Lands Act made in 2007 by Act No. 4 of 2007, covered the case of State Land, but it
did not cover cases of State Lands which were on Pas Geometriques lands.
Some 647 applications are under process.  To date, 9,935 applicants have obtained their
title deeds and are, therefore, full-fledged owners of their plots of lands.  The remaining 2,379
applicants have not finalised their title deeds for various reasons namely –
• failure to produce relevant documents such as affidavit of succession, death and
birth certificates, identity cards;
• dispute among heirs;  
• heirs staying abroad, and
• financial constraints.

As regards part (c), following a meeting earlier this year which the hon. Prime Minister
had with a number of families occupying State Lands as lessees, it was decided that relevant
amendment be brought to the State Lands Act to enable them to become owners of the land.  
Action has already been taken to include this amendment in the Economic and Financial
Measures (Miscellaneous Provision) Bill of 2013 so that it can be implemented as from January
The proposal to extend the facility granted to former ex-CHA owners to buy the plots of
land on which stand their housing unit to building site lessees has been the subject of discussions
since 2007.  Concurrently, interim measures have been taken to review downwards the annual
rental for these leases to help the ti-dimounes.   
Subsequently, Government came with a laudable measure affecting some 7,600 families
by claiming a nominal annual rent of Re 1 for those lessees paying an annual rental of less than
The sale of land to building site lessees will enable 17,000 families to become full-
fledged owners of land.
Included in these 17,000 families are some 600 lessees under the site and services
scheme.  Out of these, some 300 sites have been fully developed and are occupied by lessees.  
This measure will, therefore, be extended to those 300 lessees in the first instance.
Mr Speaker Sir, Government is, with its decisions and actions, proving beyond any doubt
that it is committed in its endeavour to democratise the economy.  The decision to extend to
building site lessees, the opportunity of becoming the owners of the land on which stand their
housing unit, is indeed one of the most welcomed initiatives and responds very positively to the
needs and desires of some 17,000 families.
Mr Bérenger:  Mr Speaker, Sir, as far as the first part of my question is concerned, we
all know the decision to sell the ex-CHA houses to their owners was taken by Government on 25
June 1989 when Sir Anerood Jugnauth was Prime Minister and Vishnu Lutchmeenaraidoo,
Minister of Finance.  We go back, therefore, to 1989. It was logical that in 2000-2005, the then
Government wanted to extend that to the State Land under the ex-CHA houses.  I heard the hon.
Minister say that there is no record of legal advice, either before or after 2005.  Is the hon.
Minister aware that before 2005 we were, in fact, advised that there needed to be an amendment
to the Constitution, that selling State Land would not be Constitutional because State Land was
equated to domaine public.   
Can I ask the hon. Minister whether, in fact, there is no record, after 2005 also, of the
change that apparently took place in the legal advice from the State Law Office?
Dr. Kasenally:  I have checked thoroughly, Mr Speaker, Sir, and there is no record either
in the Ministry of Housing and Lands or – I go further – at the State Law Office of any indication
to that.
Mr Bérenger:  Can I ask whether there is legal advice on record concerning the new
cases, the 17,000 owners of houses that are not former ex-CHA houses but that are on State
Lands? What is the advice of the State Law as far as that is concerned?  Will it need an
amendment to the Constitution?  Is it Constitutional or is it as the State Law advised before 2005,
supposedly, unconstitutional?
Dr. Kasenally:  Mr Speaker, Sir, as far as we are concerned we decided to go and discuss
with the State Law Office of what the status was and we had discussions thoroughly, my
Ministry with the State Law Office and numerous meetings were held.  At no point we saw any
impediment for the sale of State Land to private individuals and we went around and there were
amendments to be made to the law by simple majority and there was no question of change of
Constitution and so we proceeded; and as I explained in my intervention, we had numerous
meetings and eventually we managed to change the law and we have sold, and it is a fact now
that we have done it. Maybe they had the intention, but unfortunately they didn’t manage to get
Mr Bérenger: Mr Speaker, Sir, the decision to sell the ex-CHA houses to their owners
was taken 24 years ago and the amendment to allow the sale of State Land on which those ex-
CHA houses stood, was taken 6 years ago; in one case, as I said earlier on, in 1989 and in the
second case 2007. My question, Mr Speaker, Sir, related to whether all the owners of the ex-
CHA houses and State Land on which ex-CHA houses stood, in both cases whether they are all
now in possession of their title deeds.  I did not hear the hon. Minister reply as far as the ex-CHA
houses are concerned.  Can I, therefore, put the question again? It was in my question. What is
the situation as far as the ex-CHA houses are concerned? Are all the owners, as at to date, in
possession of the title deeds for the houses?
Dr. Kasenally: As far as the houses are concerned, they have all been sold.  It is the land
that cannot be sold.  The land on pas géométriques and on certain lands which are called defence
land, and we have seen no inconsistency or any change in the advice of the State Law Office as
from 2005.   
Mr Bérenger: The paper is coming in too late!  My question is not whether they have
been sold; my question is whether all the owners of ex-CHA houses are in possession of a title
deed or are they still in possession of receipts and other documentary evidence? Are the title
deeds in possession of all the ex-CHA owners?
Dr. Kasenally: Mr Speaker, Sir, as far as the houses are concerned, they have been sold
and they have got title deeds, but it is the land; as far as we are concerned, as at date, some
12,314 Letters of Intent for the purchase of the land have been issued and to date 9,935
applicants have obtained their title deeds and are, therefore, full-fledged owners of their plots of
land. The remaining 2,379 applicants have not finalised their title deeds for various reasons,
namely failure to produce relevant documents, dispute among heirs, heirs staying abroad and
financial constraint.
Mr Bérenger: As far as the land is concerned, when the issue was debated, three
problems arose: ex-CHA houses that had been constructed on pas géométriques; ex-CHA houses
that had been constructed on privately owned land, which Government had not acquired, and
lands found on ex-railway track. Can I know from the hon. Minister, one by one, if I can start
with pas géométriques, we were informed by Government on 10 November 2009 that legal
advice had been received from the State Law Office that it was not possible, it was not
constitutional to sell those pas géométriques to the owners? My colleague, hon. Ganoo, insisted
on 10 November 2009, the Minister said that he would have a fresh look and my colleague, hon.
Ganoo, said even if we need to amend the Constitution and Government said then that it would
be examined, being given the insistence of the Minister and that we were in favour, if required,
to amend the Constitution.  Can I know where matters stand as far as ex-CHA houses standing
on pas géométriques, and whether we have received different legal advice from the State Law
Office, whether we are going to amend the Constitution, if required, in the case of pas
géométriques?  How many such cases are still pending?
Dr. Kasenally: I think as far as houses on the pas géométriques are concerned, there are
about 554, there are some on defence lands, and there are about 40 on railway lands.   
As far as selling these houses on pas géométriques are concerned, we have got advice, we
are pursuing it; there may be no need whatsoever to change the Constitution. We are having
discussions with the State Law Office, and new legislation will be brought to ensure that we can
sell these lands.   
However, we must be very careful as far as land on pas géométriques is concerned.  
Many of these houses we have found that the original lessees have already sold their houses, and
in place of it there are what I would call, not social housing – I’ll lay that on the Table – but
luxury villas which people are using as guest house and are still paying R1, whereas nextdoor to
it, there are hotels which are paying millions or there are campement leases.  Therefore, we will
have to look very carefully because this may give rise to wild speculation and we have to move
cautiously on that.  
But as far as houses are concerned on the pas géométriques, not near the high water
mark, we are considering that. But there are also houses which are in the villages, which are
considered to be pas géométriques. Until now, they say that State Lands on pas géométriques are
imprescriptible or inalienable.  We have to persistently pursue the matter with the State Law
Office, and I think there is a solution that should be found, but we have to go very cautiously on
Mr Bérenger: This goes back to what I said. Before 2005, we were advised that the State
Land cannot be sold because it is imprescriptible and it was equated to domaine public and, more
recently, after 2005, the same State Law Office advised us that as far as pas géométriques is
concerned, again we hear the same story, that it is imprescriptible and that it is in the domaine
public.  Therefore, can I know, what measures we are going to take so that the issue of pas
géométriques be dealt with.   
Dr. Kasenally: Actually, we have got an advice from the Assistant Solicitor General in
2005 where it is said that by simple amendment of the law, there is a certain formula, which is
very technical, that we can do to be able to sell these lands.   
There is also a problem on railway land.  The land is being preserved in view of future
requirements for the LRT, but there are 40 ex-CHA houses in the South where it is not envisaged
to have the railway track and we can afford to sell this, but decision has not been taken.   
Mr Bérenger: Can I know, Mr Speaker, Sir, as far as ex-CHA houses found on still
private land that has not been acquired by Government and that, therefore, cannot be sold to the
owners.  We were informed on 27 November 2007 that the owners have resisted acquisition by
Government.  Can I know how many such cases there are? How many owners of ex-CHA houses
are still on private land? How many such cases are left? What Government intends to do in
relation thereof?
Dr. Kasenally: Mr Speaker, Sir, as far as private land is concerned, we have managed to
negotiate and bought a number of portions of land. But there are other private lands, where there
is a legal battle, because these were lands exchanged for grazing land and they have resisted it.  
They have gone to the Supreme Court and the matter has even gone to the Privy Council. But,
eventually, we are waiting for that; until the matter is resolved legally, we will not be able to sell
it unless there is a change in mind from the owners.
Mr Bérenger: The whole story started with ex-CHA houses sold to their owners going
back, as I said, 24 years ago, in 1989. Then, we moved to selling State Land under ex-CHA
houses and now we are looking at selling little portions of State Land under buildings, not ex-
CHA houses. I am sure the hon. Minister will remember that the first time this was raised, it was
in the Assembly by hon. Ganoo on 25 October 2005. He raised it again on 27 March 2007 and
again on 15 April 2008. So, we are very proud that this was raised by us for the first time by hon.
Ganoo. We have travelled a long way. This is on record, Mr Speaker, Sir. This is not bla bla bla
about democratisation. This is on record, this is in Hansard, this is in history, Mr Speaker, Sir.
We have now been informed that we have received legal advice, what kind of amendment we
must bring to allow this. We met with resistance – if this is the word from the State Law Office –
in the past. Can we know whether the amendment that will allow for this is ready, and if it is, can
it be circulated, because of the precedent prior to 2005?
Dr. Kasenally: In fact, I remember quite clearly, hon. Ganoo made the comment. In fact,
he was congratulating Government for bringing this piece of legislation as far as the CHA is
concerned. And he was wondering how we would manage to do it. But, as I have mentioned, we
consistently tackled the State Law Office and, after some time, we managed to get over it. There
is actually no big problem. We don’t even have to change the Constitution. Of course, at that
time, prior to 2005, you had a majority of 57:3 and you could even have changed the
Constitution. But, we have found out – because we consistently tried to bring discussion with the
State Law Office that it needed a simple Act of Parliament. This was an advice given by a
Parliamentary Counsel who is now a respectable Judge.
Mr Bérenger: Can I remind the hon. Minister that, in fact, it is a question put by hon.
Guimbeau on 25 October 2005, which related to State Land under CHA houses. It is on that
occasion that for the first time – the record is there, Hansard is there – that hon. Ganoo raised the
issue of these other State Lands, under little plots, under houses which are not CHA houses. I
must say that the then Speaker ruled that out of order. I cannot understand how that ruling took
place, but still, hon. Ganoo insisted and persisted that it must be done, that there is need for it to
be done. Is the hon. Minister aware? Can he check 25 October 2005?
Dr. Kasenally: At that time, Mr Speaker, Sir, we were having a fair number of problems
with people who were unable to buy these CHA houses and we directed our effort of
empowering them. In that connection, Government came out with a very laudable and bold
decision to help these people. In fact, my own Ministry has set up a unit where they went and,
literally all over the island, to see why these people were unable. There was poverty or there was
difficulty in financing it. And, so, we came with the idea of helping them financially. The
Ministry of Finance, on the advice, I may say, of the hon. Prime Minister, that we should
consider helping these people. And in this connection, Government decided to finance the
Rs2000. In any way, they forego the Rs2,000. But, on top of that, we helped them, we financed
their cost of mise en règle and also we had approached certain notaires. Mr Hart de Keating has
very graciously accepted to help us. In fact, as a matter of fact, after he had heard this new
project of Government, he himself has got in contact with the Minister of Finance and has
offered his services free. And this is how we managed to increase the number of people so that
they could buy their land. Now, we are coming following, as I mentioned, the meeting of some
people, by the Prime Minister and he has directed that we would do that. But we were doing it in
stage. It is something which is gradual and we have to do it. This will be another phase in our
process of democratisation of the economy.
Mr Bérenger: I heard the hon. Minister, if I got him right, that figure of 17,000 includes
some 600 houses built within the so-called sites and services project, where our Government in
the past, provided sites and services and those who got that piece of land built their own houses,
non-CHA houses, therefore. I am glad to hear that that figure includes – because that figure of
17,000 includes those owners, because in the Budget Speech, it spoke only of State Land. Am I
right in saying that, in fact, the land concerned as far as sites and services are concerned, is not
State Land, is NHDC owned land and that, therefore, NHDC will be directed to carry out the
same exercise, as in the case of State Land?
Dr. Kasenally: Maybe NHDC was empowered to provide the sites and services, but the
land is State Land and under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Housing. As far as we are
concerned, it is a subject of discussion at Government level to see how we will implement it and
the law will be amended through the Finance Bill and it will become effective as from 01
January 2014.
Mr Speaker: Last question to the hon. Leader of the Opposition.
Mr Bérenger: Even if there are no other questions. As I said, the houses were sold many
years ago, in 1989, and the State Land under the ex-CHA houses six years ago, but we still have
a number of cases pending. Can I request the hon. Minister that we should complete all
procedures in all these cases and that the amendment concerning the 17,000, as soon as ready,
should be circulated, not in the Finance Bill, but in advance so that we have ample time to
consider it?
Dr. Kasenally: Mr Speaker, Sir, as far as these sites and leases are concerned, each and
every one has an individual lease as far as sites and services are concerned. The policy broadly
will be that those who have already built their houses will be considered. Those who have not
built will not be considered and they cannot sell these houses or the land unless they have stayed
on it for, at least, five years. This is to prevent speculation.
Mr Speaker: Time is over!