Chaguaramas farmer found in contempt, must comply by May 3 or face jail

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Margaret Mohammed –

A CHAGUARAMAS farmer has been committed to serve seven days of simple imprisonment for contempt for trespassing, continuing construction and allowing livestock to enter the land owned by two other farmers at Guave Road.

Justice Margaret Mohammed made the order on April 18.

However, it has been suspended until May 3 to give farmer Earl Peters time to comply with a previous court order dated January 23, 2023, which stopped him from trespassing and continuing to build structures on Lots D and E at Guave Road, known as the Guave Road Triangle.

Farmers Sherbert Mc Kie and Joseph Richardson sought the contempt application. In it, they complained they were being inconvenienced by Peters, who was preventing them from using their land despite the court’s orders in 2023.

In his affidavit in support of the contempt application, Richardson said in early 2023, structures were built on his land, and the main drain that prevents the swamps that fill during the rainy season from draining properly was blocked.

He said he saw a pen on his land with pigs and turkeys, a shipping container and a water tank system, and plots of his land were rented out to different people for agriculture.

Richardson also said he was chased off his land and assaulted. He made a report to the Carenage police.

McKie said Peters ought to have known Lots D and E were his and Richardson’s since Peters was also involved in court proceedings in 2015 when all of the farmers’ lots were identified. He said Peters’ lot was at Lot B. He said he has been in open possession and control of Lot E, which he has planted for over 40 years, while Richardson has had Lot D for some 50 years.

Attorney and land surveyor Colvin Blaize deposed that he made an occupation survey of the Guave Road lands in 2022. He said in January 2024, he was hired by Richardson and McKie to do a redefinition survey to assist the court. This, he said, was done in Richardson and Peters’ presence and markers were placed to identify the relevant lots.

However, in his response, Peters said there are no markers to show where one lot begins and ends. He said he did not know the lot identified as his, as he has been farming on a piece of land landlocked between the two men.

Peters said he has been working the land for 15 years. He denied he trespassed on the men’s lands and added, “The persons who are on the area of land I have always been farming are my workers, and sometimes there are youths who are members of a rehabilitative programme who visit to learn farming skills as an alternative to a life of crime.”

Peters further said he has also been communicating with the relevant authorities to find out the status of the lands which are still vested in the State.

In 2015, a group of Guave Road farmers filed an action in the High Court to stop the Chaguaramas Development Authority (CDA) from proceeding with development plans in the peninsula.

In 2018, then-Planning Minister Camille Robinson-Regis said a decision was taken to divest the lands owned by the CDA to the State to facilitate the grant of leases to the farmers since the 1974 Chaguaramas Development Plan prohibited the authority from granting agricultural leases to farmers at the Guave Road Triangle.

By legal notice 127, the land was transferred to the control of the Ministry of Agriculture in 2021.

McKie and Richardson were represented by attorneys Farai Hove Masaisai and Gabriel Glanville. Peters was represented by Phillip Wilson and Saskea Lynch.