The sister of Nobel Laureate Sir Vidya Naipaul has called on the Capildeo family to settle their differences in a bid to save the historic Lion House from total collapse.
Savitri Naipaul-Akal spoke with Guardian Media on Sunday as she and other relatives met with Chaguanas Mayor Gopaul Boodhan at the historic Chaguanas landmark.
Naipaul-Akal who was born in the Lion House said “I was shocked because sums of money had been spent in the past to little or no avail. But that’s not the problem, the problem with this house is the ownership, and that has to be settled.”
Naipaul-Akal said she cannot say who now owns the house.
She said the building is a Capildeo building and not a Naipaul building as is sometimes touted. She said the former NAR government had intervened to restore the building but the family at that time, which was the Simboonath Capildeo family, did not accept any aid to help with the maintenance of the building.
“Some members of the family thought incorrectly that the Government was trying to (a) take away the property and (b) take away the property from Suren Capildeo,” she added.
Restoration was done by Suren Capildeo starting at the turn of the century. When he died in 2016 the structure started to deteriorate.
Boodhan said because the building is private property there was little that the Borough could do.
He said corporation workers who went to clean up the outside of the building but they were chased away by homeless people. Boodhan said he has made calls to the Ministry of Social Development to intervene and relocate the homeless people. Boodhan said attempts would be made again to clean up the area this week. He said food vendors in the area were also contributing to the garbage dumped near the Lion House.
Tabaquite MP Dr Suruj Rambachan reiterated his call for the State to intervene and rescue the house from collapse. Rambachan said one Chaguanas businessman has indicated his willingness to purchase and refurbish the house for the people of Chaguanas.
A national treasure
The building is regarded as one of the architectural treasures, the building is listed by the National Trust and is considered to be of major historical significance in central Trinidad.
It was last restored in the early 1990s by Suren Capildeo who retained architect Colin Laird to advise on and supervise the project, awarded to EWAC & Co. Ltd with Glen Espinet in charge.
Work was halted for a view years during which the building was vandalised, so the project had to start all over again. The restoration was eventually completed in 2001 with all the costs borne by Capildeo.
In 2013, then tourism minister Stephen Cadiz announced that a master plan was being developed to transform Brechin Castle, Couva, into an East Indian heritage site. That plan included restoration of the Lion House. He said a budget had already been formulated for the restoration work and discussions would be held with Capildeo.
However, since Capildeo’s death in 2016, Lion House has been left abandoned.
Reporter: Shastri Boodan