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More protests in Valencia

News day / The area is now called Culture Street, but is not recognised by the Sangre Grande Regional Corporation.

When Newsday visited yesterday, police were patrolling the area but that did not stop the residents from staging their protest.

More than 20 houses were demolished on Monday morning, catching many owners by surprise.

Christopher Thomas, who has been living in the squatting area for 25 years, said residents all had electricity and pipe borne water.

Some even had cable. They produced utility bills as proof.

Ann-Marie Monlouis said her grandfather Andrew Bofithee, 85, was one of the first residents in the are when he moved in 45 years ago.

“When I came here I was cutting forest, making garden, minding cattle. I did everything for myself. I paid TTEC for two light poles, nobody give me anything, so I don’t know what they fighting for,” the elderly man said.

Timothy and Charmaine Harridan said they never received a notice about ceasing construction on their three bedroom home which was almost completed.

“We were willing to purchase the land, but nobody is giving us that opportunity. We have papers where we applied for an HDC (Housing Development Corporation) house, in fact, even before I met my wife and we been married now for 16 years,” Harridan said. “They said the house was being unoccupied, but that is not true. I used to stay here in a room that we had sealed off and my wife and two children stayed in the place we are renting. I can’t have my family staying here while construction is going on,” Harridan said.

“I took a loan from the bank and have ten years to pay it off.

Now I have to pay for something I don’t have,” he said. CeeJay Moore said he was threatened and handcuffed by police on Monday when he questioned the action they were taking. He said no explanation was given to him.

“Everybody start to beg for me.

I tell them they (police) start to cuss me in my yard, they say that this is government yard.” Housing Minister Randall Mitchell made it clear that the Lands Settlement Agency (LSA) had nothing to do with the demolition on Monday. “The LSA and HDC fall under the Ministry of Housing. The LSA had absolutely nothing to do with that demolition exercise. The LSA is not empowered to demolish any structure, legal or illegal. The LSA is a creation of statutes. It was created by the State Lands Regularisation of Tenures Act.

“The LSA’s mandate is to provide land tenure to work towards the regularisation of squatters who were found to be in occupation prior to 1998 on state lands in designated areas.

“The LSA is not empowered to do that. The demolition exercise was done by the Commissioner of State Lands and that falls under the Ministry of Agriculture.

The Commissioner of State Lands is empowered to demolish all structures on state lands,” Mitchell explained.

Attempts to reach Agriculture Minister Clarence Rambharat and Commissioner of State Lands Paula Drakes for comment were unsuccessful.

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