Claxton Bay residents ‘insulted’ by EMBDC $$ offer

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

SIX Claxton Bay families who were recently told to abandon their homes or remain in them at their own risk, have sought legal advice.

They are ready to take state-owned Estate Management Business Development Company to court for millions of dollars of compensation.

The families argue extensive quarrying by the EMBDC has led to massive erosion, land movement and land slippage which has caused at least one house to completely collapse and left several others literally on the verge of doing so.

Attorney Prakash Ramadhar took up the case after the EMBDC sent the families letters telling them to leave their homes.

Newsday visited the area and spoke with residents and Ramadhar.

Ramadhar said his law firm wrote to the EMBDC on May 4 and in a response a day later, the agency offered to pay rent for six months, at values ranging between $4,000 and $5,000 per month, per family.

Ramadhar said his clients have said they do not intend to abandon their homes, where some of them have lived for decades.

Resident Giles Garcia, whose house was built 45 years ago, collapsed and slipped 200 feet from its original location after the surrounding land became unstable.

Garcia said the EMBDC’s “advice” for them to leave their homes was just a ploy to avoid having to pay compensation.

He said after his house collapsed on September 15, with him and his family inside, he was promised rental for six months. Since then, Garcia said, he has received the equivalent of two months’ rent.

He said the incident has led his family to be separated, as he and his wife live in a one-bedroom apartment and his two children are staying with a relative elsewhere.

“This experience has left me with no trust in my so-called caring government,” Garcia told Newsday.

He said when he retired, his plan was to “sit on a beach, wearing a straw hat and sipping a drink.

“But I am now living in a one-bedroom apartment with my children separated from me.”

Standing in the home of Kamla Harripersad, which is also in danger of collapsing, Ramadhar said “a horrible injustice has been done to these families.” He added that the response from the EMBDC to the affected families, before his law firm got involved, was insulting.

“We are seeking a permanent solution to the homes, livelihoods and possibly the lives of our brothers and sisters here,” Ramadhar said.

He said a technical team including attorney Dyanand Arjoon (who is providing structural engineering advice), surveyors and valuators have been on the scene to ascertain not only the value of the houses but also the foundational or mineral value of what lies under the affected properties.

Because of the danger posed to electricity lines and utility poles in the area, T&TEC has disconnected electricity, so the houses are without a supply.

Resident Nadira Williams said, “Every day I have to purchase two packs of ice and packs of candles.

“The offer of six months’ rent is far, far, far from acceptable. I am not moving, I insist they compensate us properly,”

Relocation is not the only issue, Ramadhar said.

“The highest priority is safety and security for these families and their children. All the hard work and years of putting together a home, the value of the land and the value of the red sand must be added to the compensation package,” Ramadhar said.

Given the destruction so far, he added, repairs to the houses as well as remedial work to the land to prevent collapse are no longer viable options, as the cost would be far greater than the cost of resettling and compensating the affected familes.

He said the families are all decent and reasonable people who have not staged any protests and he expects the EMBDC to respond to them with decency and fairness.

Although the residents are ready to go to court, Ramadhar said this is still a last option and he is hoping the matter can be resolved without resorting to it.

The post Claxton Bay residents ‘insulted’ by EMBDC $$ offer appeared first on Trinidad and Tobago Newsday.