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No Property Tax demolitions, says Housing Minister

Trinidad Express / Housing Minister Randall Mitchell has accused the Opposition of inciting fear among the population by linking the demolition of illegal structures in Valencia to failure to pay property tax.

Mitchell said Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar was creating mischief, fear mongering and using scare tactics.

He said: “We totally reject the claims and the attempts to cause panic and fear among the population by the Leader of the Opposition by trying to link the demolition of unlawful structures by the Commissioner of State Lands to the sanction under the Property Tax Act for failure to pay your property tax.”

Mitchell said there was no sanction under the Property Act which stated that properties would be demolished for failure to pay.

“I see that as mischief making, fear mongering and scare tactic and I totally reject it, especially from an Opposition Leader who is a former prime minister of Trinidad and Tobago and a very experienced parliamentarian,” he said.

Mitchell said the Land Settlement Agency (LSA) was in no way responsible for the demolition of the illegal structures in Valencia.

He said the activities in Valencia was carried out on instructions from the Commissioner of State Lands and not the Government.

“The activities in Valencia was done under the instruction and directive of the Commissioner of State Lands who is charged under the laws of Trinidad and Tobago as the protector of State lands. The Commissioner of State lands is empowered to do all in her power, which includes the demolition of structures to protect state lands,” he said.

The Commissioner of State Lands reports to the President, he said.

Mitchell said the LSA was created by the State Lands Regularization of Tenure Act of 1998, which means it is empowered to regularize tenure on those persons found to be in occupation of State Lands prior to 1998.

He said the LSA was not empowered under that Act to enter onto State lands or private lands to demolish any structures.

Oropouche East MP Dr Roodal Moonilal has also condemned the demolition of houses at Pine Avenue, Valencia.

And he has called on Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley and Mitchell to explain why the homes were destroyed.

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