Denying Daphne - 99-year-old woman waits 40 years to collect $1m from Government for land sold to the State
Barbara Gayle, Justice Coordinator
If the Government of Jamaica had paid Daphne Thompson $68 per day, each day since 1974, they would have paid in full the near $1 million owed to her family for 900 acres of land by now.
Instead, family and friends of the 99-year-old are pleading for the payment to be made immediately, especially in light of the recent decision by the National Housing Trust to spend $180 million to purchase just over nine acres of land in Trelawny.
At 59 years old, no one could have told Thompson that after 40 years, she would still be waiting to collect the money that her family is owed by the Government.
But that is the reality that now faces the senior citizen who has waited through the years for the final payment from a land deal.
"How much longer does a 99-year-old Jamaican woman have to wait for what is rightfully hers?" asked attorney-at-law Jacqueline Cummings, who is representing the Thompson family.
"Why does any Jamaican family have to wait 40 years to be paid by the government for their property?" added Cummings.
According to the reports, in 1974 Thompson's husband Jasper and a friend agreed to sell the Government 900 acres of land comprising two properties in Newfound River and Kilmarnock, Hanover.
Cabinet approved the purchase and an agreement was signed between the men and government officials. The Government paid them a portion of the purchase price with a balance to be paid to complete the sale.
The matter went unresolved for several years until Jasper Thompson died in 1986. His friend died two years later, without collecting the outstanding amount.
In 2001, a member of staff at the Ministry of Housing realised that the purchase was incomplete and contacted the family. The ministry requested assistance from the executors to transfer the lands that the Government had started to purchase from the men in 1974.
The lands were to be transferred to the commissioner of lands, but the process required the executors of the two estates to complete an application to the registrar of titles for a new title to be issued for the land as the original ones were lost.
The executors of the estates were also required to sign an instrument of transfer to the commissioner of lands. The family requested payment of the balance owed for the purchase in exchange for the executors of each estate doing the transfer.
A meeting was held with ministry officials later that year to determine how much was owed and how much time had passed since it was due. A determination was also to be made as to what interest would be paid to the families of the two men, and as a result, valuations were done for the property.
Another meeting was held at the Attorney General's Department in 2002 to finalise the amount of money to be paid to each family and how much their lawyers would be paid for doing the transfer.
Applications were prepared and signed and the instrument of transfer done up. However, it took from 2002 to 2009 for the various government entities, the Department of Stamp Duty and Transfer Tax, Attorney General's Department, National Land Agency, and the commissioner of lands to decide on the matter.
The bone of contention was who should pay the transfer tax and stamp duty or if there was to be a waiver, and also who should sign the documents on behalf of the Government.
With those issues finally resolved, the family requested an increase in the amount to be paid to them for the further seven-year delay in completing the sale.
According to Cummings, after writing several letters to the Attorney General's Department, an agreement was finally reached in February 2013 for the families to get an increase in the amount owing.
Cummings said since then, the Government has not paid any money to the Thompson family or their lawyer.
"The widow of Jasper Thompson is now 99 years old and requires that money urgently for sustenance and medical expenses due to her years of seniority," Cummings told The Sunday Gleaner last week.
"Constant letters and emails and telephone calls have not been met with any definite date for conclusion of this matter. The latest was that it has to go to Cabinet for approval," added Cummings.
The attorney said she has presented a representative of the Attorney General's Department with a copy of the Cabinet approval letter in 1974, so she does not know why the matter has to go back before that body.