Residents of Basta Hall in central Trinidad believe lands earmarked for a Heritage site was snatched from the community to open a cemetery.
On Sunday, residents held a town meeting and signed a petition calling on the authorities to release information to them.
Roshan Babwah, resident of the area and an attorney at law, said no consultation took place with the community and the Commissioner of State Lands.
Babwah said the community had written the Ministry of Community Development asking that the area be developed into a heritage site. He said no response was ever given. He said villagers recently learned that the site was being cleared to establish a Baptist cemetery. Babwah said while the villagers are not against the Baptist community getting a cemetery, it should be established near the existing cemetery on which there is ample space.
Following the town meeting, Babwah said the community learned through a document sent to the Couva/Tabaquite/Talparo Regional Corporation that the land was being cleared using the Community-Based Environmental Protection and Enhancement Programme (CEPEP), a state resource.
Babwah said, “We are saying there is a more feasible location near to the existing cemetery where there are 15 acres of land. We have a communication from CEPEP to the CEO of the CTTRC saying that it was given to the Spiritual Baptist Community. We support our Baptist sisters and brothers, but we are saying there is a better location where there is all the existing infrastructure. We are going to write the Commissioner of State lands through the Freedom of Information Act and we are going to petition for the relocation of the cemetery.”
Babwah said the site where the proposed cemetery is to be established was the location of the first settlement in the area.
He said in the 1960s the village was relocated and some families were sent further up in the hills at Basta Hall and some were moved to Dow Village. He said the colonial government justified the move to split the community claiming the villagers were too noisy and bothering the users of the golf course. Babwah said there are still plans to establish a community centre, a heritage village and a monument at the site.
Babwah said every legal means would be used to halt the project.
Couva South MP Rudy Indarsingh said the villages want answers from the relevant Minister, the Commissioner of State Lands and the CTTRC as to why the information was kept from them.