...residents block roads between Penal and South Oropouche
SOME residents living in the way of the proposed Debe to Fyzabad segment of the Solomon Hochoy highway extension to Point Fortin on Monday took protest action, blocking roads in and around Penal, Fyzabad and South Oropouche.
The residents are demanding fair and just compensation for their land and homes which must be demolished ahead of the highway construction. The protest action had crippled traffic flow out of the area.
The protest is being led by Edward Moodie, a community liaison officer employed with the National Infrastructure Development Company (Nidco), the State company that is overseeing the highway construction.
Moodie's role in the protest has been questioned by Local Government and Works and Infrastructure Minister Suruj Rambachan, who said the matter would be discussed at a meeting betwen Nidco and residents to be held on Saturday. However, Moodie has countered that his job was to lobby for the residents, who he said were not being treated equitably.
Brazilian based Construtora OAS has been given the contract to undertake $7.2 billion project, and the Golconda to Debe segment of the highway is nearing completion.
Rambachan said that this segment of the highway would be open on August 30 and that the Golconda interchange would be opened on Friday.
Moodie, the head of the Debe to San Francique Highway Action Committee has issued a list of what residents see as unresolved issues which led to today's protest action.
The following are the questions residents have asked that the politicians answer.
1. Why was the highway reduced from 100-60 metres? Either you build a proper highway or none at all.
2. Why was the building line set back reduced from 20-30 Metres to 7.5 Metres? This is supposed to be a faster highway. Cars will end up inside your houses when they run off the road.
3. Why did the Minister meet with our valuators privately and then in two separate meetings in POS?
4. The valuators and then Mr. Moodie was threatened with Section 5 Notices.
5. We submitted valuations two years ago and only now NIDCO wants to settle in two weeks time. This is a negotiation process.
6. Houses that are alone the highway path will crack and fall such as what happened in Esperance. We demand full acquisition as what was done in Esperance.
7. The Minister promised he would acquire all those who are in the 100 Meters limit.
8. Why are people being asked to move in 24 hours after payment? We are not animals.
9. When will the land be made available in Petite Morne and Cedar Hill?
10. The agreement was one year rental allowance for all or until the land is made available. This is not in the contract. Why only verbal and not written?
11. Why is Paria Suites Hotel being used for negotiations with ACQ? This is a waste of money. We have an office in Debe available for this.
12. The Minister promised he would secure loans for the poor along the highway so they could buy the lands at Petite Morne at a subsidised price.
13. No maps available at the Outreach Office in Debe.
14. NIDCO meetings being held during the time (where there is) 10 days of seclusion for most Muslims. (Moodie) advised against this. No response from the PM and Minister Rambachan except a phone call at 6:15 PM to ask me why am I trying to break up his meeting. I am the one who was planning a meeting with NIDCO and the people.
15. I was told to fall in line because of my salary. I am not afraid to stand up for the truth.
16. Relocation of the people in PCO next to their Mosque has not been discussed so far. NIDCO is settling one by one and asking them to take up rentals.
17. Residents being told the land in Petite Morne is valued at $600,000.00. Why did the cost of the lots go so high?
18. Residences were served legal notices published in the Trinidad and Tobago Gazette for acquisition. Today they are getting a phone call to tell them they are no longer in the highway alignment. Why not a legal notice as dictated in the Land Acquisition Act?
19. Part of the Petite Morne relocation site finished 4 months ago by Nemalco Contractors. But that was not done by the favored contractor. Instead, NIDCO is waiting for another contractor to finish his part so he could be paid while they are paying rental allowances in the millions of dollars when we could be building out homes in Petite Morne. Why?
20. Cabinet approved relocation yet still people are getting letters stating to use the compensation to relocate themselves.
21. Jack Warner had an agreement with the people, which is why we never protested against the highway. What has happened now Dr. Rambachan?
22. Farmers want land to be able to build their houses on. Farmers are not planting on EMBD lands because of Praedial Larceny. We want to live on our lands which we plant on otherwise keep the land and give it to the (name called) family like you did with the 100 acres in Picton.
23. No Vehicle available for the Outreach Office in Debe to do any field work.
24. An employee at the south office collecting payments to do work for private valuators, videos was produced as evidence but she was never fired.
25. The license or lease was never withdrawn as promised by Dr. Carson Charles.
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