Four days after the Curepe Interchange was formally opened, residents who were relocated to facilitate its construction are calling on the Ministry of Works and Transport to pay the outstanding monies owed to them.
During a press briefing at the Caroni home of his mother, Dhularie Maharaj on Saturday, resident Rajindra Maharaj accused Works Minister Rohan Sinanan of hoodwinking the population and leaving the 14 affected families in a far worse position. He said most of the people who were dislocated have started to build their new homes.
Sinanan, in an interview with Guardian Media last week, said Cabinet approved $86 million to be paid to home and business owners whose properties fell in the direct path of the interchange.
On Saturday, Sinanan denied the homeowners had been cheated, and he insisted they had all been awarded compensation based on fair market value.
Speaking on behalf of the 14 families, Maharaj questioned the disparity in the figures as he said $35 million had been set aside to pay seven homeowners. He claimed that out of this figure, just around $9 million alone had so far been paid out. Maharaj estimated that close to $20 million remains outstanding.
He also disputed claims that 34 people had been affected as he reiterated that only 14 families were affected by the move to facilitate the Curepe Interchange.
Maharaj said, “The country has gotten what it wanted…and I don’t understand what is the issue with paying the homeowners.”
He said while a handful of the affected families are continuing to pay a monthly rent to ensure there is a roof over their heads, some others have been threatened that if they did not begin construction on the lands awarded, it would be taken back from them.
He reminded the authorities, “We are living in hard times and all we are asking is that you be fair to us. They country done get what they want and we need to move on with our lives.”
Meanwhile, other residents who were present lamented the treatment meted out to them. They said they were faced with red tape to get connections from the Water and Sewerage Authority (WASA) and the T&T Electricity Commission (T&TEC).
One man said, “It is costing around $800 per truckload of water to fill three 400-gallon tanks so we can have water for the ongoing construction.”
The residents said the parcels of leased land which are located adjacent to the Caroni Police Station are undeveloped and need to be backfilled so they can avoid the perennial flooding which occurs every rainy season.
Maharaj estimated that his family has spent close to $600,000 already to erect retaining walls, fill their parcel of land, relocate existing water lines from dissecting their property and building the foundation for their new home.
The residents have signalled their intention to pursue legal action as they appealed for a speedy yet fair resolution.