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Get off my land!

Home owner to highway construction workers:

By Innis Francis innis.francis@trinidadexpress.com

HOME OWNER Dinesh Ramcharan yesterday confronted highway construction workers preparing to excavate portions of his ten-acre farm at Mon Desir.

The crew, operating on instructions from highway contractor OAS Construtora, were forced to back off, after failing to convince the Ramcharan family that they were living in the proposed path of the highway to Point Fortin.

The family claimed it was the second time in a month that the work crew had moved onto the land.

Ramcharan said the ten-member family was informed that his property lay in the path of the highway and he had a private evaluation done and a report submitted to the National Infrastructure Development Company Limited (NIDCO).

He said no one has contacted them.

"About one month ago they (OAS Construtora) came and stopped me from producing seedlings. They said the highway is expected to pass through six acres of my family land. I am willing to negotiate with them. They can't just come and mash up my only source of income and not inform me.

"This is our agriculture land. We have nursery shed, livestock and crops and we have lost a great deal. Even the farmers that we supply are losing out," Ramcharan said.

He estimated his losses at $100,000.

Ramcharan is demanding that Works Minister Emmanuel George meet with them before the problem escalates into something bigger.  

He said it is disappointing the way the State was conducting its business.

"If they want our land...we work hard for it and they are supposed to compensate us for it. They can't just take it away from us.

We have to move on and start over, so the Minister of Works has to fast track our documents and compensate us."

Housing Minister Dr Roodal Moonilal spoke about the protest by people living in the way of the highway during a visit to the site of the Children's Hospital in Couva yesterday.

He said: "The law we had tried not to use is compulsory acquisition. Where the Government at anytime or anywhere takes the land by force. I am not disappointed. I think the protesters are getting smaller and smaller, the communities they are getting very fed up now.

"I understand that in those areas about six village councils are uniting to call on the Government to speed up construction of the highway.

"We are trying to avoid clashes as we had in Debe and Gandhi Village where residents come out now and take things in their own hands. Where they come out and confront these protesters. Most of these protesters don't live there.  It is not in our interest to use a heavy hand, we would like to negotiate and continue dialogue. Maybe when the highway is open to Debe some people might change their minds."

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