Members of the Highway Re-route Movement who live along the path of the Debe to Penal segment of the Solomon Hochoy highway extension to Point Fortin yesterday reiterated their intention to resist attempts to relocate them.
At an “Open House” hosted by the National Infrastructure Development Company Limited, (NIDCO) at the Shiva Boys’ Hindu College, Clarke road, Penal, Gopee Trace resident, Ballyram Siew, 71, said he was not a “squatter” and would resist any attempt to relocate him from the house in which he had lived for all of his 71 years.
Speaking to reporters, Siew, a small, grey-haired man, declared, “We not squatting, we not renting, everybody have their own land, their own house, nobody not getting no handouts from no government, they don’t want that but everybody is fooling the people.
“From Debe to Mon Desir, it have over 300 houses, 13 communities they mashing up. You build an embankment for over ten feet high, when rain fall and water come down, we living in a lagoon area you know, where that water going, that drowning half ah Penal. I don’t want no highway, I not moving from there, I don’t want no relocation, I don’t want no compensation, I have a big family and I am not moving from there. They will have to bulldoze my house if they want.” Asked what the group planned to do to stop the controversial work on that section of the highway, Siew said, “We fighting the government right now, the matter in court and we not moving, nobody want to move from there. From Debe to Mon Desir is ten miles, you building six interchange in that little piece of area and taking away all the agricultural lands and they want to send the people to Petit Morne.”
In full agreement was Murray Trace, San Francique resident, Gitana Boodhai, who said the Movement had decided to attend the Open House to “see what it is NIDCO is offering and talking about and so far, we have spoken to the technical team and they still in the same situation because they still can’t explain clearly to the people what it is going on, the exact areas that would be affected, people who would have to move. I was standing behind someone and only today she found out that her house is carded for demolition. I mean how can you say you are building a highway and only today this person is finding out her home is going to be destroyed,” Boodhai said.
“I mean how is she feeling at this point in time knowing maybe she just came today to see what is going on today only to find out that her house is earmarked for demolition. So far I have been asking questions about the social impact and one of the members of the technical team said to me that they did a social impact assessment seven years ago, seven to eight years ago. But if you are dealing with an issue now and so much time has passed, obviously there has been development in the area, people with new homes, people with businesses so you cannot come and tell me that you want to base this highway on a study you did seven years ago,” she said.
Meanwhile, Re-route Movement leader, Dr Wayne Kublalsingh said Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar should focus on building the San Fernando to Point Fortin highway and not the Debe to Mon Desir segment. “Nobody says they want the Debe to Mon Desir highway, nobody is lobbying for that,” he said, adding government should also abide with the Dr James Armstrong report which had called for a review of the controversial section.
Meanwhile, NIDCO communications officer, Naasir Mohammed said the Open House was held to provide information to affected residents along the Debe to Penal segment of the highway while NIDCO vice-president, legal services, Dinanath Ramkissioon, said the residents had raised concerns about the delays involved in arriving at compensation packages for the affected residents. “Various concerns, some about the delay about the process,” he said. Ramkissoon declined comment on the Armstrong report which the Movement said was being ignored by NIDCO, saying that the matter was “sub judice.”