Sinanan: No compensation for squatters

Works and Trans­port Min­is­ter Ro­han Sinanan yes­ter­day warned squat­ters of Pine Set­tle­ment, San­gre Grande, that they had no claim to seek com­pen­sa­tion when Gov­ern­ment ac­quires State land for the $400 mil­lion Cu­mu­to to Man­zanil­la High­way project.

Sinanan made the com­ment in re­sponse to Mon­day’s T&T Guardian front page ar­ti­cle head­lined Land Bobol, which high­light­ed a rush of new squat­ters at Pine Set­tle­ment, who were erect­ing con­crete struc­tures in the di­rect path­way of the pro­posed Cu­mu­to/Man­zanil­la High­way project.

The ar­ti­cle al­so spoke about squat­ters en­croach­ing on pri­vate lands at Whar­ton Es­tate, Saly­bia and State land at Galera Road, lead­ing to the To­co Light­house. The high­way project is ex­pect­ed to open up the en­tire north­east­ern re­gion with busi­ness ac­tiv­i­ty and gen­er­ate jobs.

The is­sue was raised by San­gre Grande Re­gion­al Cor­po­ra­tion chair­man Ter­ry Ron­don, as he called on the Gov­ern­ment to do some­thing fast to stem the tide as he ad­mit­ted the is­sue of squat­ting in the north­east­ern re­gion was out of con­trol.

Ron­don said the news of the To­co Port has led to a pro­lif­er­a­tion of squat­ters mov­ing in on State and pri­vate lands.

Speak­ing on CNC3's Morn­ing Brew pro­gramme on Mon­day, Sinanan said: “I don’t think this (squat­ting) start­ed to hap­pen with the an­nounce­ment of the port in To­co.”

He said from Va­len­cia as far as Ba­lan­dra squat­ting has been in ex­is­tence for years but was now grow­ing.

Sinanan said San­gre Grande has the largest con­cen­tra­tion of squat­ters in the coun­try.

In 2016, the Land Set­tle­ment Agency (LSA) told a Joint Se­lect Com­mit­tee of Par­lia­ment that there were 55,000 fam­i­lies squat­ting in the coun­try. This amount­ed to over 200,000 peo­ple over­all.

The LSA es­ti­mat­ed that San­gre Grande has be­tween 7,000 to 10,000 squat­ting fam­i­lies.

“It’s sim­ply be­cause it’s a lot of free land that does not flood...we have had a chal­lenge with squat­ters in that area for quite a while. Un­for­tu­nate­ly, what we see hap­pen­ing up there now is that on the route to the high­way...we do have a chal­lenge now with squat­ters.”

Sinanan said the LSA is au­tho­rised un­der the State Land Reg­u­lar­i­sa­tion of Tenure Act, No 25 of 1998, to pre­vent and con­tain fur­ther squat­ting on State land and to reg­u­larise el­i­gi­ble ex­ist­ing squat­ters.

A per­son who is el­i­gi­ble for reg­u­lar­i­sa­tion must have oc­cu­pied a dwelling house on the prop­er­ty pri­or to Jan­u­ary 1, 1998.

“If you come on the land af­ter that (Jan­u­ary 1, 1998) you will be re­moved. You have no right to be on the land. So the Gov­ern­ment would not be pay­ing any­body for any land that is State land.”

In ad­di­tion, Sinanan said a squat­ter who builds on State land would not be en­ti­tled to any claim or com­pen­sa­tion by the Gov­ern­ment.

“Who­ev­er thinks that they are go­ing to get mon­ey from the Gov­ern­ment for squat­ting on State land, that is on the path of the high­way, they would not be com­pen­sat­ed. It’s sim­ple as that be­cause you know you are do­ing a wrong.”

Reporter: Shaliza Hassanali

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