Ugandan Asians Protest MPs Canada Trip to Probe Assets

20 January 2020

Some owners of the repossessed Departed Asians property have protested the justification of the parliamentary inquiry into their ownership of the assets.

The taskforce appointed by the Parliamentary Committee on Commissions, Statutory Authorities and State Enterprises (Cosase) has been investigating ownership of the properties after information emerged that some assets, whose original owners had been compensated by government in the 1970s were illegally repossessed by private entities.

The taskforce chaired by Makindye East MP Ibrahim Kasozi is about to present a report of its investigation.

The properties under probe are those either compensated for by government or were not repossessed by their original owners after President Idi Amin expelled Asians in 1972. Those properties are supposed to be in the control of the Departed Asians Properties' Custodian Board (DAPCB).

Petitioners

However some Ugandan Asians, who were accused of being in illegal control of hundreds of the said properties have challenged the Parliamentary inquiry and have petitioned the Indian High Commission here and in Canada, saying the probe is illegal.

The petitioners challenging the ongoing investigation both in and out of the country are; Mohamed Allibhai, Navinchandra Kakubhai Radia, Praful Patel, Pradip Nandlal Karia, Minex Nandlal Karia, Alnasir Gulam Hussein Habib Virani, Kunnal Pradip Nandlal Karia, Piyush Pravin Kotecha and Meenakshi Pravin Kotecha.

Others are four companies: Property Services Ltd, Alderbridge Real Estate & Management Ltd, Vora (U) Ltd, The Association of Expropriated Properties' Owners Limited.

Daily Monitor understands that these individuals and companies through their lawyers of Akampumuza & Co. Advocates have written to the Attorney General William Byaruhanga challenging the ongoing probe as "contempt of court."

Reasons for protest

They say there is a pending petition No. 22 of 2019 filed last year in the Constitutional Court about the same subject and any other probe would be in contempt of the ongoing proceedings in court.

They also say Parliament and the Executive should respect the separation of powers of the three arms of government as enshrined in the Constitution by letting court first pronounce itself on the contested repossession of the properties.

"The respondents continue to gather evidence on similar matters which are ongoing in the Constitutional Court, the last being their summoning of our clients to produce before them the Powers of Attorney, the very matter that is before Court for adjudication," the petitioners wrote to the AG on January 13.

In the constitutional petition No. 22 of 2019 the AG, Departed Asians Properties Custodian Board (DAPCB) and its Executive Secretary George William Bizibu are named as the respondents.

The petitioners' lawyers also questioned the current trip by the MPs and DAPCB officials to Canada and UK to interact with the original proprietors of the properties in question.

"...While Bizibu and DAPCB are part of the Parliamentary delegation, our clients were never invited to travel along, for obvious reasons," the letter reads in part.

"The above acts [are] evidence on how your officials are ready to go to undermine the Constitutional Court unhindered," the lawyers added.

Parliament is not party to the respondents in the matter that is yet to be fixed for hearing in the Constitutional Court.

Daily Monitor has also seen a similar complaint sent to the Uganda High Commission in Canada on behalf of the Ugandan Asians whose management and possession of properties is under probe, seeking to attend the proceedings in Toronto and Vancouver cities.

"We have been asked to contact you to inquire whether any hearings, meetings or other Canadian proceedings have been scheduled to be conducted in Canada and to request that we be informed of such proceedings and be given permission to attend any such Canadian proceedings," reads a letter by Devry Smith Frank LLP Lawyers and Advocates, foreign lawyers representing the Ugandan Asians.

Both the AG and Uganda High Commission in Canada are yet to respond to the petitions as the Cosase task force enters its second week of public hearings in Canada and the UK.

Taskforce responds

However, The taskforce chair Makindye East MP Ibrahim Kasozi, speaking from Toronto at the weekend, told Daily Monitor that matters of prejudice cannot stand against a probe that started before the petitioners ran to the Constitutional Court.

He said some of the petitioners had already testified under oath before the taskforce several months before petitioning court.

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