National Infrastructure Development Company Ltd (Nidco) president Dr Carson Charles yesterday denied that families impacted by the construction of the Solomon Hochoy Highway extension to Point Fortin were being evicted from rental apartments being paid for by the State.
Charles said the six-month contracts for accommodation to squatters were extended to ensure that no one was rendered homeless.
He was responding to claims by the Debe to Point Fortin Highway Action Committee, led by former Nidco consultant Edward Moodie.
Moodie led a protest in Debe on Tuesday claiming that Government was no longer paying rentals for the residents.
Charles said, "I don't know of anyone who has been put out. We have gone out of our way to make this transition as easy and as painless as it can be because these people are being asked to relocate because of the highway. We have not forced anybody out. All of the properties demolished and people who have moved out...all of this has been done following negotiations and with mutual consent."
Charles said the houses were demolished at Nidco's cost after compensation was paid. "In addition we pay rent for you to move into an apartment. This includes the squatters who have no legal rights of title," he said.
Charles said no one was obligated to accept the apartments offered by Nidco. "Many persons have their own apartments and we give them the money to pay the rent. For the ones who occupy our apartments, when the contract ends we advise the person to please find their own apartments and we will pay the rent. No decision was ever taken that we are not going to rent the place for them, or we are going to put them out. In the case of the squatters their contract was initially was six months, but that was extended for another six months," he said.
Charles said the properties at Petite Morne and Picton, where legal landowners and squatters have been relocated, lands were already prepared. He said the new landowners were unable to construct their homes as building plans were not yet approved by Town and Country Planning.
"A number of people still have to get plans approved to start building their homes. We have gone to Town and Country with designs for different homes and got it approved. We will give plans free of charge and they can now build their homes," he said.
Charles said three demonstration houses would be constructed at Petite Morne.
The squatters, he said, would be given similar treatment at Picton.
Dr Carson Charles said he was pleased with the progress of the highway to Point Fortin. He said construction was ongoing at all segments of the highway. The Point Fortin to La Brea and St Mary's Junction to Delhi Road, Fyzabad, are expected to be commissioned this year. The highway is expected to be completed by mid 2015 and within the $7.5 billion budget, he said.