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Land and Marine Resources Minister Jairam Seemungal says he ask Cabinet to establish a police unit to stop illegal occupation of state lands by squatter. He said in the past two weeks his ministry had to intervene in 75 areas to deal with squatters encroaching on state lands. The minister said squatting is still a challenge for his ministry, which also has to manage some 60,000 regularised squatters.
“We are now putting a lot of polices and procedures in place to deal with (squatting). Manpower has always been an issue in the ministry and now we increasing for the very first time the manpower in the ministry to deal with it,” he said in an interview at Paria Suites, La Romain yesterday following a function to distribute 76 lots to squatters affected by construction of the San Fernando to Point Fortin Highway.
Seemungal urged the squatters, who were given certificates of land tenure for lots at Picton Phase 2 Settlement, not to sell their lots or let anyone fool them into giving away their land. “Use the land wisely,” he said. The minister later said: “A lot of people over the last eight to ten years felt that they could go on state lands and just encroach and occupy and no one is looking at it,” he said.
“I will be taking a note to Cabinet to seek some form of police squad that will work along with the ministry (that) will be dealing… with the people who feel that all these lands are there for grabs.” Seemungal said Cabinet had approved relocation of 162 squatters affected by the highway construction.
Status change for squatters
Works and Infrastructure Minister Dr Surajrattan Rambachan told the squatters they have been given a great opportunity to improve their status which has been uplifted from squatter to land owner. He said the land they have been given is valued at $200,000 and will appreciate to $500,000 and more in years to come. “You have been given a land payment of $50,000 over the next 30 years,” he said.
Rambachan said each squatter will pay $1750 annually for the next 30 years and the lease will be renewed at the end of that period. The squatters have the option of approaching the T&T Mortgage Finance for funding to construct their homes and will be eligible for a two percent interest rate.
Among the beneficiaries yesterday was Bridmohan Roopnarine Singh, 69, and his wife Samdaye Mohanie Bridgemohan, 70, of Super Extension, Saltmine Trace, Fyzabad, expressed joy at receiving their lot of land. Singh said when they were told they would have to move to make way for the highway they were worried.
“We are grateful that we have somewhere to live. We are happy the Prime Minister kept her promise. She said she not going to put nobody on the road and she kept her word,” Singh said, with tears in his eyes. However Jassodra Singh, 57, of St Mary’s Village Oropouche, said she was not pleased that she has to move since she has been living in that area for the last 20 years. “It is uncomfortable and heartbreaking. At this age it is very hard to move but we have accept it for the highway,” she said.