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‘We will resist any plans to move us’

By Lara Pickford-Gordon Monday, May 7 2007

click on pic to zoom in
Members of the Diego Martin and Environs Committee for a Better Community, (from left) Andy Williams, Anasthasia Dailey and Michelle Forester demand d...
Members of the Diego Martin and Environs Committee for a Better Community, (from left) Andy Williams, Anasthasia Dailey and Michelle Forester demand d...

Despite Housing Min-ister Dr Keith Rowley’s tough stance regarding the relocation of Bagatelle residents to make way for a stadium, those against the move vowed to resist any plan to forcibly remove them.

“We demand, we want regularisation, deeds or leases and we want these before election,” said Anasthasia Dailey, head of the Diego Martin and Environs Committee for a Better Community at a media briefing at the Bagatelle Community Centre, Diego Martin yesterday.

Dailey said 95 percent of the people went through the process of getting Certificates of Comfort (CoC) to be regularised and 15 years had passed without anything being done to achieve this.

She said, “time to legalise Bagatelle and all communities out there whom Mr Rowley considers squatters.”

Andy Williams, a member of the committee, said protests and rallies may be used to highlight residents’ plight.

He said approximately 75 homes with 300 people had to be moved.

Williams insisted that there was land available in Diego Martin for Bagatelle residents to be relocated. He called for the authorities to keep promises made more than two years ago at a meeting held at the Diego Martin Junior Secondary.

Residents were told they would be relocated to areas in Diego Martin to make way for a sporting complex and receive payment for the land they occupied “at today’s market value.” He said legal advice would be sought.

Stewart Biggette said at the meeting residents were advised 44 lots in the vicinity were allocated and the land would be distributed through a lottery system.

Biggette said he received an offer of $200,000 for his four-bedroom home, but a two-bedroom house from the Housing Development Corporation was selling at $230,000.

“How can that be fair?” He asked. Biggette said his relocation options included Chaguanas, Longdenville, Barataria and Mt Hope.

He has been living at Savannah Road, Bagatelle for the past 45 years and works as a taxi-driver in Diego Martin. “To come and ask me to leave after building a nice four-bedroom and settle with my wife and five children to live in another community is an inconvenience,” he said.

Biggette said he had affidavits from when he applied to get a Certificate of Comfort.

Responding to Rowley’s statement that the Opposition United National Congress breached the law in issuing CoCs to residents, Angela Lawrence said the Minister had to say how this happened since CoCs were distributed by the UNC and PNM.

She said many of the people “forced to move” regretted accepting offers because they now realise other residents were negotiating.

Lawrence said the authorities, “targeted individuals, they just presented them with a parcel of land and did not give them an option.”

At last Thursday’s post-Cabinet media briefing, Rowley said 71 squatter families would be relocated in two phases.

Of the 35 families in Phase One, he said 33 have cooperated. Although Rowley said “people from outside” were inciting protests in Bagatelle, committee members refuted this.

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