Sir Vidya’s sister: Settle ownership before restoration

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

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