Lots awarded: Minister of Land and Marine Resources Jairam Seemungal, centre, presents Lawrence Taylor with a certificate for a lot of land at Picton, San Fernando, during a function yesterday at Paria Suites, La Romaine. At left is Ian Fletcher, Commissioner of State Lands. —Photo: TREVOR WATSON

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State cracking down on squatting

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By by Sue-Ann Wayow sue-ann.wayow@trinidadexpress.com

POLICE officers may be asked to assist the State in dealing with the squatting problem in the country, says Minister of Land and Marine Resources Jairam Seemungal.
Seemungal said people were claiming State land as their own, develo­ping it, selling it, and the State received no money from such transactions.
He said squatting remained one of the main problems for his ministry.
There are approximately 60,000 squatters in the country, he said.
Seemungal said 75 contracts were issued to surveyors to survey all squatting sites—totalling more than 350.
Seemungal was speaking to reporters yesterday after a ceremony to distribute land certificates to squatters being relocated to Picton Settlement, Diamond Village, San Fernando.
The squatters are being relocated because their houses were built in the pathway of the extension of the Solomon Hochoy Highway to Point Fortin.
The ceremony was held at Paria Suites Hotel and Conference Centre, La Romaine.
Seemungal said: “We are now putting a lot of policies and procedures in place. Manpower in the ministry has always been a problem. Now we are increasing for the very first time the manpower in the ministry to deal with it.
“I will also be taking a note to Cabinet very soon to seek some form of police squad that works along with the ministry. They will be dealing with direct intervention to the persons who feel the lands are there for grab. What they do is that they take the lands, develop them, and then sell them; and no revenue comes to the State at all.
“We have started looking at every piece of State land and if persons do not have a lease or some form of security of tenure by the State, we are dealing with these as we see them. For new persons who are occupying for the very first time, those are persons we are dealing with immediately, so we can put a stop to any further encroachment on State land.”
Seemungal said later this month the first recipients of land under the “Land for the Landless” programme will receive the relevant documents.
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