Chief Secretary writes Finance Minister on Friendship Estate

Chief Secretary Orville London.
THA Chief Secretary Orville London has written Finance Minister Larry Howai expressing his distress at the Central Government’s delay in effecting final payment for the Friendship Estate and the Tobago Race Club Lands in Southwest Tobago.

In his letter London advised the Finance Minister that the acquisition process for the 40.49 hectares owned by the Tobago Race Club was completed on the February 10 2009; while the process for the 200 hectare Friendship Estate was completed three months later on May 20 2009.

London said the two properties were acquired for public purposes which included housing settlements, construction of public buildings, recreational facilities, a tertiary level institution, agricultural enterprises and environmental protection.

“Consequently, the failure of the Central Government to pay the owners for the acquired lands has frustrated the Assembly’s development efforts in a number of critical areas and it is quite disconcerting that over the past 30 months, the Government has considered the issue to be neither urgent nor critical,” he added.

The Tobago Chief Secretary said the delay in payment has also placed the landowners in a highly disadvantageous position where they have lost the rights to the use and enjoyment of their property but do not know if and when they will be compensated.

He told the Minister that this situation was untenable and grossly unfair to the Tobago House of Assembly, the landowners and most importantly, the people of Tobago.

Saying that he remained available for further discussion, at a mutually convenient time, London appealed to Howai to use his good office to ensure that the owners of the Friendship Estate and the Tobago Race Club Lands were compensated for their properties so that the Assembly could commence the various development projects on these lands.

The parcels of land were recently brought into the spotlight with claims by the leadership of the Tobago Organisation of the People (TOP) that the Assembly had owned them and therefore could have used part of it to construct the Administrative Complex for the Agriculture Division.

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