Wednesday 11 December, 2019

Ramadhar, Sinanan to meet as Curepe residents given eviction notices

St Augustine MP Prakash Ramadhar said he will be meeting with Minister of Works and Transport, Rohan Sinanan, on Monday to address eviction notices which were served to 14 residents over the planned development of the Curepe interchange. 

The development comes after residents along the Southern Main Road and Spring Village, represented by attorney Michael Rooplal, were told via notices submitted on August 27 and 28 that they had 15 days to vacate their homes. 

Rooplal submitted a letter calling for a halt to the proceedings until negotiations with the residents are completed. 

Ramdhar said in response to a statement issued by the Ministry of Works and Transport on Sunday, that no resident has been compensated for their land, either through private treaty or compulsory acquisition. 

"The residents are aware of the process of the land acquisition for the project, the issue involves compulsory acquisition which allows the Ministry to take initiative and seize the property, without any input of the residents.

"No single resident has been paid for their premises, either through compulsory acquisition or private treaty. The effect of serving these notices, if they were effective, would be to put these residents out into the street without any compensation," he said. 

Ramadhar said he hopes that the meeting will result in an agreeable solution. 

"The letter submitted by Mr Rooplal has served to put a halt on things to allow us to meet. We also expect to have a follow-up meeting with the Minister of Works and Transport. Hopefully we can move forward to an agreeable solution," he said. 

The Ministry said in a statement issued Sunday claiming that residents sent claims for their properties that were up to 300 percent higher than the 'official value for their properties'.

However, Rooplal said residents' properties had been evaluated by chartered valuators from the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS), the names of which had been provided to residents by the government. 

Residents said after being initially contacted by the Ministry in 2013, they were not appraised of developments on the project until 2017 when the Ministry officially commenced negotiations with clients. 

Residents said the process of acquiring the land was moved from private treaty, which allowed for their land to be evaluated, to compulsory acquisition, where notice would be given that the land is being acquired for public purposes, and would vest the State 'free from all encumbrances' (as per Section 5(1) of the Land Acquisition Act). 

Under Section 10 of the Land Acquisition Act, compensation for properties seized under compulsory acquisition would be determined by a tribunal. 

The Act says the determination of compensation for compulsory acquisition would be taken to be the amount 'which the land might have been expected to realised had been sold in the open market by a willing seller", 12 months prior to the date of publication in the Gazette for the notice of appropriation.

Residents have also asked whether the lands in Curepe which have been already acquired, such as the former Kay Donna compound, were acquired through private treaty or compulsory acquisition. 

The Ministry said Cabinet agreed in 2013 to the acquisition of 22 parcels of land for the construction of the Curepe interchange. The parcels have since been updated to 37 and include properties that are residential, commercial, agricultural, state-owned or privately owned.

The Ministry said the Land Acquisition Act entails a two-step process that entails serving a Section 3 notice of intended acquisition, followed by a Section 4 order which empowers the State to enter and take possession of the properties within six months of serving the notice.

The MOWT said the Section 3 notice allows the Ministry to enter the properties to carry out preliminary works for ‘investigative purposes’.

The Ministry said a Section 3 notice published in the T&T Gazette on August 2013 and September 4 established that government followed due process.

The Ministry said Section 4 orders were served between August and September 2017 to residents and again in May 2018 after the initial time period for taking possession of the properties by the state had lapsed.

The Ministry said it wrote the affected landowners informing them of Legal Notice #181 and said all landowners signed that they had received the letters.

The Ministry claimed that landowners have ‘failed to comply with the legal process and submit claims, along with valuation evidence” and that landowners ‘refused’ to submit their declarations to the Board of Inland Revenue to support their claims for compensation.


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