THE Sports Company of Trinidad and Tobago (SPORTT) has given Shanghai Construction Group (SCG) until noon tomorrow to vacate and demolish buildings which have been illegally erected and occupied for more than a year on the eastern side of the National Cycling Velodrome in Couva.
Not only are the structures illegal, SCG has also been illegally using electricity and water for the past year, according to documents obtained by the Sunday Express.
The buildings, which are home to about 50 Chinese nationals, were erected during Shanghai's construction of the Velodrome.
However, it has been over a year since construction was completed.
But the structures and workers have remained at the site.
SCG has a two-year maintenance contract for the Velodrome.
The Sunday Express understands that only six workers regularly maintain the facility even though 50 still live in the buildings.
Since April, SPORTT has issued several letters to the SCG and project manager Clifford Murray raising the issue of unauthorised occupation of the lands and the living accommodation of workers.
“It has been confirmed that there is no documentation in existence at SPORTT and/or the Ministry of Sport and Youth Affairs which evidences any permission and/or licence and/or lease which governs this current arrangement,” SPORTT chief executive Adam Montserin wrote to Murray on April 9.
Montserin is currently on administrative leave.
On April 20, after consultation with SCG, Murray wrote to SPORTT and explained the following points:
“1. While it appears that living accommodation has not been specifically mentioned in any formal agreement, SCG have pointed out the benefit of this in their response time in emergency situations. SPORTT needs to consider this, and any cost implications, and ensure that suitable alternative arrangements are in place.
“2. SCG have indicated that under the terms of the maintenance contract, SPORTT is to provide storage areas for equipment and material and alternative areas will have to be made available to SCG.
“SCG have also stated that the maintenance contract was negotiated on the basis of the living accommodation and storage facilities available to them at that time. We have no knowledge of this and reiterate that we have never seen the maintenance contract and therefore cannot offer any opinion.”
On August 18, SPORTT wrote to Shanghai and said that SPORTT “is aware of SCG's illegal use of electricity and its connection to the fire hydrant line to obtain water. In fact, Mr Gao acknowledged and admitted to SCG's unauthorised use of electricity and water in the said meeting.”
Deplorable and unsanitary conditions
The letter continued: “We are also aware and concerned about the deplorable and unsanitary condition in which the facilities used by SCG are being maintained.
“Further, it is our view that the manner in which the said facilities are being utilised in addition to the said unlawful connections, constitutes a health, safety and security hazard to the company and the SCG.
“We are to advise that these are all serious contraventions of the laws of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago which the company will not condone; and these matters will be addressed by us forthwith.”
SPORTT's deadline comes on the heels of a Cabinet decision to lease the parcel of land to the Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA).
On July 14, Agriculture Minister Clarence Rambharat wrote to SPORTT informing the company of Cabinet's decision to lease land near the Ato Boldon Stadium.
Rambharat said the site was important for the TTFA and was “time sensitive given the upcoming activities in January 2018 and the time-bound nature of the FIFA funding commitment”.
Rambharat subsequently asked that the site, which is among two identified for lease to the TTFA, be cleared for “surveying for the purpose of the lease approved by Cabinet”.
The Sunday Express yesterday contacted SCG chief executive Michael Zhang but he asked to be contacted tomorrow.
When the Sunday Express explained that tomorrow at noon was the deadline given by SPORTT to comply and if the company would comply, he deferred again to speak tomorrow.
Dinanath Ramnarine, the current chairman of SPORTT told the Sunday Express that this issue pre-dated his appointment at the company.
“At this point we are working with SCG and trust that they will do the right thing,” he said.