Finance Minister takes action on land acquisition

Tobago House of Assembly.
Finance Minister Larry Howai has taken steps to pay the owners of the Tobago Race Club and Friendship Estate for their land that was compulsory acquired more than two years ago by the Central Government in southwest Tobago.

The Finance Minister wrote THA Chief Secretary Orville London on Thursday (20th September 2012) advising him that he had executed the warrant to effect payment for the two parcels of land acquired for public purposes.

The Tobago Chief Secretary had written Howai on September 11 2012 expressing his distress at the Central Government’s delay in effecting final payment for the 40.49 hectares owned by the Tobago Race Club and the 200-hectare Friendship Estate.

The compulsory acquisition of the two properties was triggered by the Tobago House of Assembly (THA) for public purposes which included housing settlements, agricultural enterprises, recreational facilities, environmental protection and public buildings for the Tobago Divisional Headquarters of the T&T Fire Service and tertiary educational facilities.

In his response Howai stated that he had looked into the matter and was quite surprised that it was outstanding for so many years.

In a recent interview the Director of Land Management Horace Archille stated that the compulsory acquisition process had reached Stage 4 and all that was left was for the Central Government to pay the owners.

Chief Secretary London has been insisting that the THA could not take possession of the land until the money was paid. The leadership of the Minority Tobago Organisation of the People (TOP) has been saying that the Administrative Office Complex for the Division of Agriculture, Marine Affairs, Marketing and the Environment should have been built on Friendship Estate and not at the junction of Shirvan Road and the Claude Noel Highway.

He had told Howai: “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.”

The Tobago Chief Secretary said the delay in payment had 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 THA, the landowners and most importantly, the people of Tobago.

London said yesterday (Friday 21st September 2012) that he would continue to monitor the situation.

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