Last update: 08-Dec-2013 4:55 am
Sunday, December 08, 2013
Trinidad & Tobago Guardian Online
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Residents threaten to stop highway
Saying that the Government had already labelled them terrorists, residents affected by the construction of the San Fernando to Point Fortin highway are now threatening to stop the project. Speaking on behalf of South Oropouche and Mon Desir residents on Thursday, Edward Moodie said the action was being planned because they were not satisfied with the compensation packages being offered by the National Infrastructural Development Company (Nidco).
Speaking at Cedar Hill, Princes Town, where lands are being developed for the dislocated residents, Moodie, president of the Debe to Mon Desir Highway Action Committee, said offers of $150,000 were being made for million-dollar properties. “Those figures have not been changing and what we are going to do is stop that leg of the highway. We are going to protest. We are going to stand in front the equipment if we have to until justice is served,” he added.
Although residents agreed to postpone negotiations with Nidco last week, Moodie said yesterday he had advised some people to renegotiate compensation for their homes. “What I asked the people to do was to go back to a negotiation and see if they would make changes to those figures. “A lot of people in Mon Desir are being offered very low figures, of about $157,000 for an acre of land. One person I know has close to $1 million of teak on his land. How can you offer a man with an acre of teak on it $150,000?” he asked.
More than 50 residents Thursday toured the sites at Cedar Hill, Petit Morne, Ste Madeleine and Picton I, Barrackpore, as they plan to lobby theGovernment to give them access to lands that have been prepared for their relocation. Cedar Hill has been earmarked for squatters but work there is not close to completion.
The Petit Morne site, which is split into four phases, is being developed for bona-fide landowners, with Phase II A already completed with an available 149 lots. Phase IIC contains 88 lots and is expected to be finished in six weeks. Moodie said that would be a good site for the relocation of the squatters but the T&T Guardian was told there may be some conflict as some bona-fide landowners do not want to be allocated the same lands as the squatters.
The other available option, Picton I, is 98 per cent complete and only needs one layer of asphalt on the roadway. However, it was developed for former Caroni (1975) Ltd workers. Calling the relocation process unfair, Moodie said while Cedar Hill was still under development, residents’ homes were being invaded and demolished.
He said: “The lands have not been completed here. The people have not been compensated and they have entered into people’s property and bulldozed people’s property. Therefore, they have actually acquired the lands by compulsory acquisition. “I regret saying this today: We are going to heighten protest action if we have to but we are still begging and making a plea to the Government.
“I spoke to a minister yesterday and she asked if we were terrorists. How can we be considered as terrorists when all we asking for is what we as citizens of South deserve?” Last week, Nidco said negotiations were ongoing and that even South Oropouche resident Pearly Ramnarine had cashed her compensation cheque. Thursday, however, Moodie said Nidco was making many false statements as Ramnarine claimed she was duped into signing an agreement and denied receiving a cheque.
Ramnarine said: “I signed the agreement with threats from our evaluator. He said I can sign the agreement or not. It was not his business, it was up to me. “He told me that they will have to break down my house and I would have to pay $500. They came by me on three occasions and I was so scared that I end up signing the agreement and it was the same thing with my daughter. “They said we don’t have rights but if squatters don’t have rights how do squatters have rights to vote?
“Do you think that is a good thing? If we have rights to vote, we should have rights for everything. We are all citizens of this country,” she added.
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