“The ministry dropped a bomb on us.”
This was the sentiment of one of the five Curepe residents who now face eviction as the Ministry of Works and Transport seeks to move ahead in the construction of the Curepe Interchange.
“We were shocked by the press conference,” said the resident, after the learning the ministry had announced its intent to approach the High Court to evict them.
The residents have been at loggerheads with the ministry concerning the valuation of their land and by extension the compensation they are to receive for relocation.
The resident, who asked not to be named, said they were of the belief that they had more time to negotiate as they had only been served with the Section 4 notice indicating the government had authority to take the land last month.
During the press conference on Tuesday, Marvin Gonzales, director of legal services for the ministry, said the residents had continuously stalled negotiations as they twice fired attorneys as little progress was made in talks with the Government.
“To date, the ministry has exhausted all possible avenues to allow for just and reasonable solutions to reach a mutually beneficial settlement and the ministry has allowed two sets of section four orders to lapse to give the resident enough time to negotiate their claims,” said Gonzales.
“The Minister of Works and Transport will now exercise his powers under the land acquisition act to sign warrants and forward same to the marshal of the High Court today ordering that the five remaining residents be put out of possession of their properties,” he added.
Gonzales said despite the State hiring an independent land evaluator, no agreement concerning compensation had been reached and time was running out before the State would owe millions to contractors due to delays.
“Given its contractual obligations and the risk of having to pay costs to the contractor to the tune of millions of dollars, the ministry is left with no choice but to invoke the only option available to it under the Land Acquisition Act to further the interest of the national community in the provision of improved transport road networks,” said Gonzales.
Director of Highways Navin Ramsingh also confirmed during the press conference that contractors had already given the State notice that additional costs will be added due to the delays.
“So far, we have gotten notice from the contractor with effect from November 26 (2018) the State is liable for the cost of delay because of failure to grant vacant possession,” said Ramsingh.
The ministry twice issued Section 4 legal notices last year, in May and December, which stated the ministry had the legal authority to take the lands.
Those notices expire six months after being issued.
However, the resident confirmed that they were still being given a final chance to accept an offer from the Government as they were due to meet with the State evaluator today.
However, if the talks collapse once more, the residents stand to lose even more than their homes.
In December, the Commissioner of State Lands issued a Residential Tenancy Agreement, confirming they would offer the Curepe residents land developed in Frederick Settlement, Caroni.
The land would be deducted from their overall compensation package, Gonzales said.
However, if these residents are evicted through the warrant that land offer will no longer be on the table. “The unfortunate thing is that now that the ministry is now seeking to invoke the warrant order to take possession the affected residents may no longer be entitled to that parcel of land in Caroni, and that’s the unfortunate part of this,” said Gonzales.