After months without any authority stopping the clearing of more than three acres of land at Number One Mucurapo Road, belonging to the Port-of-Spain City Corporation, Amalgamated Workers Union President Michael Prentice has expressed concern about the scope and impact of the work.
Prentice, who represents POS City Corporation workers based at the Transport Yard, which borders the cleared lot of land, said the union complained to the corporation about the illegal activity months ago.
Despite this, he said, nothing is being done.
“We are upset about it because, it appears to us, that it is an encroachment of the lands down there, and we suspect it’s by a political entity, but I don’t want to say, at this time, who it is for sure,” Prentice said.
According to the union’s president, the work is negatively affecting the health of workers based near the site.
He claimed that trucks coming in and out of the property daily are causing large quantities of construction material to fill the air.
“The workers down there are now suffering from dust and mud because the trucks are passing through the entrance that is close to the corporation’s operations,” Prentice said.
Additionally, he said, inaction by the POS City Corporation and other relevant authorities is a further indication to the union and corporation workers that their concerns fall on deaf ears.
According to the AWU President, while the union has complained for years about poor conditions at the Transport Yard, at Mucurapo Road, land that could be used to extend and improve the facilities are being illegally cleared.
“That is what we are demanding at this time – the land. So, the corporation can erect proper accommodation for the workers to carry out the work of the capital city,” he said.
“This is what is troubling us – How is the mayor of the capital city unaware of what is going on? They know everything else, but they don’t know what they should know,” Prentice added.
While Prentice said he could not confirm who is responsible for the clearing of the land, Imam Yasin Abu-Bakr, leader of the Jamaat-al-Mulsimeen, confirmed to Guardian Media in March 2020 that his organization was responsible.
He believed then that there was nothing to the issue, saying, “The land has been there. It has always been there, and we are just doing some cleaning.”
In March 2020, Acting Commissioner of State Lands Bhanmatie Seecharan said she reported the matter to the police, while Port-of-Spain Mayor Joel Martinez simply said, the corporation wasn’t responsible for the clearing.
On Friday, when Guardian Media visited the site, the clearing stretched from the Jamaat’s mosque to the Audrey Jeffers Highway, and the City Corporation’s Transport Yard.
There were piles of material, heavy construction equipment and multiple advertising billboards on site.
Attempts to contact POS Mayor Joel Martinez, Acting Commissioner of State Lands Bhanmatie Seecharan, Imam Yasin Abu-Bakr and Jamaat PRO Lorris Ballack by phone were all unsuccessful.
For more than 40 years, Number One Mucurapo Road has been the subject of a land dispute between the Jamaat al Muslimeen and the state.
The Jamaat believes it is entitled to the 8.8 acres of land at the site.
However, the State, in the past, stated that the organization was squatting illegally, resulting in several conflicts.