Landowners: Woodbrook Playboyz not evicted

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

The TT Group of Professional Associations Ltd (TTGPA) has said the Woodbrook Playboyz steelband was not evicted from the association’s property at Fitzblackman Drive, Woodbrook.

Woodbrook Playboyz’s secretary Leroy Grant said the band had moved and is now temporarily based at the Jamaat Al Muslimeen’s compound, Mucurapo Road, Port of Spain. Grant also confirmed that the band was not evicted. The single-pan band has 45 members.

In a media release on Friday, the association said the steel orchestra was not evicted from the association’s property and it never served the band with an eviction notice.

“In fact, following months of cordial discussions, both parties arrived at an amicable and acceptable memorandum of understanding (MOU) whereby the Woodbrook Playboyz agreed to relocate to another location under specific terms which the TTGPA is currently in the process of executing,” the release said.

It quoted the association’s president Corene Procope as saying the association was surprised and disappointed that the relationship was tainted by erroneous and mischievous intentions.

“Both parties met extensively and explored numerous options, including one for them to stay on the compound that was suggested by the TTGPA. However, those options proved futile and we subsequently arrived at a mutually accepted position, which was agreed upon in writing. It is just untrue, inaccurate and malicious to try to frame the agreement as an eviction. We will be reaching out to the management team of the Woodbrook Playboyz for us to better understand what transpired,” the release added.

It said the resolution has been in the works for the past 30 years and the decision to vacate the land was mutually agreed on.

Grant said the band was given notice two years ago.

“We were given the okay to operate on the property by the guy who was occupying that parcel of land for about 50-something years. He gave us the okay to function there at no cost to us,” he said.

He said when the band was given notice two years ago, the electricity was cut and the band was unable to function without it.

“At that point in time, we started to do some investigations through the corporation. We wrote the Port of Spain Corporation a letter to find out the true ownership of the property.”

The band did not receive a reply, but through its legal team, found a lease, he said.

He added the association and the individual occupying the land had meetings and came to an agreement. Although the association owned the property, because the individual had occupied the property for such a long period, he had some legal rights to it, which necessitated negotiations between him and the association.

Grant said the band was a third party in those discussions and a nonentity in the decision-making.

He said the MOU was signed and when the individual collected the cheque, the parties then had 30 days to vacate the premises.

Grant was advised to speak with Aquil Arrindell – who is the president of Pan Moving Forward, a slate set to contest the Pan Trinbago election – and Arrindell then spoke to Fuad Abu Bakr, who is also on the slate. Abu Bakr is the son of the late Jamaat Al Muslimeen leader Yasin Abu Bakr.

Abu Bakr then granted the band permission to take its instruments to the western end of the Jamaat compound, he said. They were moved on April 20.

Asked why it was being said the band had been evicted, Grant said he told the media exactly what had been said to Newsday, and exactly what was said to Newsday was also said to other media.

He said at no point did he use the word “evicted.”