These were the angry shouts against Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar and her People’s Partnership Government by incensed Carenage farmers and residents who took to the streets in protest, yesterday.
Scores of protestors braved the scorching midday sun as they marched from Guave Road, Chaguaramas, to outside the Parliament at the Waterfront, Wrightson Road, Port-of-Spain, yesterday.
They claimed Government was taking away their livelihoods, their heritage and their economy from the people of the community.
Over 45 families have been affected by the actions of the Chaguaramas Development Authority (CDA) who destroyed acres of crops on lands at Guave Road, last Wednesday.
“They are not going to use the area, they just want to fight and push people out,” one man shouted as he walked by with his placard.
Movement for Social Justice’s (MSJ) David Abdulah, who joined the Independent Liberal Party’s political leader Jack Warner in the march, said residents of Carenage, particularly the farmers who planted the land in Guave Road for decades, came out to protest what was essentially the destruction of the heritage, lifestyle and birthright of the people of the community.
Abdulah said during the second World War, Chaguaramas was given by the English to the Americans and the people who lived in the Chaguaramas area were displaced from the land. He said many of them still had deeds and wanted to get back the lands they said were theirs. “Descendants of those original families have been planting the area of Guave as farmers for decades. Their lands have been bulldozed repeatedly as the CDA has been trying to put in place some so called development which paradigm is totally opposed to the interest of the people of this community.
“Now people heard about the giving away of the Chaguaramas Convention Centre which is part of the country’s historical heritage and legacy. And also major lands opposite the Convention Centre giving way to another conglomerate. So people have gotten incensed and they have come out in protest,” he said. Abdulah said the CDA was trying to create a Chaguaramas which was going to be a development which was really alien to the culture and tradition which involved farming and small entrepreneurship.
Kamraj Ramroop said he had been planting the land for over 15 years, but was forced off the land, and all his crops destroyed.
“I was run off the land by CDA officers with batons in their hands. I was arrested and spent a night in the jail. I went to court and the magistrate said the farmers are the occupiers of the land and the CDA is claiming the land and they have no evidence, they did not give the court any evidence stating that they are the owners of the land. I had about two acres of ochro and pumpkin planted and they chopped down all. It was worth over $30,000 and now I have no children with no income,” Ramroop lamented.
Speaking about the Chaguaramas issue in the House of Representatives yesterday, Housing Minister Dr Roodal Moonilal declared, “You cannot have development if you don’t have conflict.”
“Today I reflected, Eric Williams marched to Chaguaramas to free Trinidad and Tobago. Today, they are marching to imprison Trinidad and Tobago,” he quipped. Moonilal said he found it curious that as Government seeks to develop Chaguaramas to promote economic activity there, people march and protest.
“When they built Pier whatever for Chin Lee they did not protest,” he added, speaking of Pier I, an entertainment facility and marina, owned by the family of former PNM government minister Howard Chin Lee.
Turning to the Chaguaramas Convention Centre, Moonilal said, “That structure is termite infested, woodlice infested. TTEC has said that they can do no work down there.”
Claiming that it was costing “$4 million a year to manage a place that cannot be used,” Moonilal scoffed, “They feel that they own Chaguaramas Convention Centre as if it is Balisier House but it is not Balisier House, it is for the development of TT.”
When St Joseph MP Terrence Deyalsingh questioned Moonilal on the relevance of Chaguaramas to the Motor Vehicles and Road Traffic Bill 2014 which the House was debating at that time, Moonilal replied that more cars on the road, meant a greater likelihood of traffic offences under this legislation. He said the same reasoning applied to the development of places like Chaguaramas as economic zones. “Surely you can see that,” Moonilal told Deyalsingh.