Farmers have filed an injunction restraining Housing Development Corporation (HDC) personnel and its agents from bulldozing 100 acres of farm land at Crescent Gardens, Mausica Road, D'Abadie.Bulldozers destroyed several acres of crops yesterday before word of the injunction was communicated to the HDC.In an interview, farmer Vinda Marajh said an attorney representing himself and another farmer, Jason Kanic, filed an injunction before Justice Vasheist Kokaram in the Port-of-Spain High Court yesterday.Marajh said: "We went with attorney Lemuel Murphy. They (HDC) did not serve us any notice. This is a criminal act. We have one minister saying one thing and the other something else." He said the land was used by four farmers to plant crops.
"This is a total surprise and there was no official warning or a phone call from the HDC," Marajh said."We have to follow this up...I am in shock while I am here walking on the land."The farmers planted sweet potatoes, pineapple, bodi, cassava, peas, corn and other vegetables.Murphy said the ex parte injunction was granted, based on the fact that the land was used by the farmers since 1979."We got an injunction based on that fact," he said."The land apparently was state land, but has now been vested in the HDC and it was the HDC which commissioned the bulldozers to clear out the land.
"They never gave the farmers any notice that they were coming to clear the land."Murphy said said the farmers spoke with HDC's CEO Jearlean John in January this year."Nothing materialised after that and we heard what was going to happen by rumour," he said."The injunction will restrain them for a certain period of time...We do not have a date set."They are restrained from putting equipment on the land and destroying crops in the meanwhile.
"Attorney Criston Williams was also with me to get the injunction."Up to late yesterday evening, president of the Sheep and Goat Farmers Association, Shiraz Khan, was seeking legal advice for land that was also bulldozed at Egypt Trace and Dass Trace in Chaguanas."(Food Production) Minister Vasant Bharath said a week ago that anyone who occupies land and is producing crops would not be interfered with," Khan said."He gave us the assurance that it would not be destroyed...Now, lo and behold, look what happens on Easter Monday morning.
"The President and Prime Minister said in their Easter address to the nation that they want more spirituality, but all along they want to bulldoze these people place on Easter Monday."He said it was an unfortunate incident after years of hard work when food was in short supply."On this holiday, they are destroying 80 acres of produce when the Government is crying on national TV that they are putting in incentives to increase production...It is really upsetting," Khan said."It is high time people stand up against this. In Mausica, there were over 25 heavily-armed policemen, and eight heavily-armed police officers in Chaguanas."
President of the National Food Crop Farmers Association Terrence Haywood said the association would visit HDC today."We got an injunction and we got word that they (HDC personnel) were coming last Friday," he said."There have been people farming there for 30 years and the farmers have to pay rent."They have paid the State rent for the whole year at the Warden's Office, and also land tax. Yet they are still coming and bulldoze the land. We are going by both ministries tomorrow."Member of Parliament for D'Abadie/O'Meara, Anil Roberts, said:
"We got a text from the farmers about what happened."I knew it (land) was earmarked for housing and some of the farmers gave me a document concerning that," he said. "I put it through to the Housing Development Corporation for more information and that is all I know at this time."John, the HDC CEO, said the property was earmarked for housing years ago."It has been for quite some time now," she said.Food Production Minister Vasant Bharath was unavailable for comment.