HOUSING Minister Dr Roodal Moonilal assured yesterday that legitimate tenants of east Port of Spain apartments owned by the Housing Development Corporation (HDC) will be protected from further attacks by gang members who, over the past few weeks, have been forcing them out of their homes.
In order to assure the safety of legitimate tenants the police will be called in to occupy units, especially in hotspot areas where gang activity occurs, said Moonilal.
He, along with National Security Minister Emmanuel George, acting Commissioner of Police Stephen Williams and DCP Mervyn Richardson, HDC chairman Rabindra Moonan and HDC managing director Jearlean John met at the Corporation’s South Quay, Port of Spain headquarters yesterday morning following which they spoke to reporters.
He said up to yesterday morning there had not been any evictions but assured that following the meeting gang members will be forcibly removed at a later date.
So far, approximately seven apartments have been identified as having been taken over by criminal elements in the east Port of Spain area, according to the HDC.
Moonilal admitted that for years the HDC had been dealing with illegal tenants who occupied abandoned or yet to be distributed housing units (usually in rural areas of Trinidad), but over the past few weeks he had been receiving reports that gang members, especially those of east Port of Spain and Laventille, had begun throwing people out of their homes and occupying them.
Dr Moonilal held up house keys which he said were handed back to the HDC by a tenant who was being threatened by gang members to leave his home.
“People come here and beg and cry to get this house or that apartment and now they have to return it? We will deal with this matter as a matter of urgency,” he said.
Minister George promised his ministry’s support, saying, “very decisive action will take place and this is not something we want to encourage and we will work with the people in communities”.
Acting CoP Williams said the lawmen will not let illegal occupancy of the east Port of Spain apartments get out of hand.
He said charges against those who forced people out of their homes may include the threats they issued as it would be up to the legitimate tenant to press further charges.