Legal proceedings may be the next course of action for residents of a squatting community in Savonetta after eTecK began demolishing properties and agricultural crops on Wednesday to make way for the Phoenix Park Industrial Estate.
Couva South MP Rudranath Indarsingh and California/Point Lisas councillor Ramchand Rajbal Maraj met with two of the affected residents, Agnes Warner and Carolyn Mc Inroy, yesterday to render assistance.
With puffy and reddish eyes, a visibly shaken Mc Inroy cried, “Me eh sleep good, I was outside whole night, I uncomfortable.”
Mc Inroy says her family has been occupying her property at Joseph Drive, Southern Main Road, for 32 years while Warner claimed she has been living there for over 25 years.
Warner, a registered farmer, and Mc Inroy grew a wide range of crops on the land which they sold to earn a living, but they were destroyed on Wednesday.
Warner said they had rejected the company’s compensation offer because it was inadequate.
In April they were served with an eviction notice giving them two weeks to vacate the land.
EtecK’s president Steve De Las told Guardian Media that the company had been in contact with six occupants of the land since 2018.
But, Warner said in 2018 workers had tested the soil but it’s only last year that the company spoke to them about relocation/compensation.
Warner complained that the company wanted to relocate them to a dump site at Phoenix Road junction and they refused. Warner said the company also offered her $80,000 which she turned down. Rajbal Maraj says during his discussions with eTecK representatives last July/August he had asked about the fence line community.
He said even during the site visits earlier this year he again raised the issue with management and the contractor and they stated that the fence line community would not have been affected.
The councillor said eTecK also gave the commitment to look into developing the infrastructure of the community.
He said the land was abandoned by the state and residents have been occupying the land for more than 30 years.
Stating that army personnel and the police were present during the demolition, Indarsingh said the residents are going through mental anguish.
He said, “This is untenable this is pushing people to the brink and when I have a constituent here who is on the verge of a nervous breakdown because of what has been perpetrated by Minister Gopee-Scoon and eTecK. I want to tell them here all officeholders must be very aware that there’s something called karma and their actions will ultimately catch up with them. They must be accountable and remember there is something called karma in life.”
Noting that between last January and April he had sent four letters to eTecK officials on behalf of 14 residents living in the community, he said the officials wanted to meet with him in the absence of the residents and he refused.
“It never became a reality and yesterday this high handed action and I’m saying that if the Government could find hundreds of millions of dollars to enter into this agreement with this Chinese company, Beijing Construction Engineering Company Ltd is the contractor responsible for the design and construction of this industrial park, I am saying where is the care of the Prime Minister? Where is the care of Minister Paula Gopee-Scoon and the Board of Directors led by Imtiaz Ahamad to meet with these people and treat them in a very fair and equitable manner?”
Questioning why the company took this action during a pandemic, he said he is exploring legal options, the minister said.
When Guardian Media reached out to the minister via WhatsApp Messenger she referred questions to eTecK’s president.
“I am leaving this in the hands of Eteck, which is the Board with responsibility for the development of the Phoenix Park Industrial Estate,” she said.
De Las told Guardian Media on Wednesday that their inquires revealed that the residents were not occupying the land as long as they claimed.
He also claimed that the company had followed due diligence and acted with a level of empathy.
He said one of the occupants accepted compensation, two others went silent during the communications and another could not be located while Warner’s and Mc Inroy’s demands were unreasonable.