PORT OF SPAIN –– Lynette Ragbirsingh, a mother of two, who lives among eight other people in a wooden structure, near the newly upgraded Southern Main Road, held her stomach and bent over crying yesterday after being told she would be relocated by the government for the second time in less than a year.
Ragbirsingh’s family lived in one of three houses that stood in the way of the Southern Main Road upgrade project which was completed last year.
The upgrade cost $100 million and created a parallel road to the existing Old Southern Main Road, from the Caroni Bridge to Washington Junction.
For a few months, three families refused to move from the land they had lived on for over a decade, despite being told they had no rights to live there as squatters.
The families were eventually moved and Coosal’s Construction, the contractor for Phase 2 of the highway, along with a team from charity Habitat for Humanity, constructed a wooden house for the families to share less than 100 metres from their previous home. The permission for use of the land was granted by the Land Settlement Agency (LSA) and the families moved in December.
Now, six months later, Ragbirsingh has been told she must move again. She’s been given two weeks to vacate her new home.
“I’m fighting. I’m fighting to live. I don’t want to be homeless but they are telling me and my family I have to leave.”
Ragbirsingh said a man with a LSA identification card appeared at her home Monday. Her brother Rajkumar said the man drove onto the property and started banging on the walls in an aggressive manner.
“He asked us who gave permission to live here and we showed him the forms. He asked us who gave permission to build and we explained to him that Habitat had built it.
“Then he told us we had two weeks to move or they would break down the house. He was very rough,” Rajkumar said.
Ragbirsingh said the family were frustrated by the mixed messages they had been receiving from state agencies.
“Why should I move from here? Where do you want me to go? I have always been from this area.”
Ragbirsingh, who has two children attending school in the area, said she had called Minister of Works Suruj Rambachan and was told Rambachan was unaware of the developments.
She said she was not told what the land was needed for but had nowhere else to go and did not want to move again.
In a telephone interview yesterday, Rambachan said he was having the matter investigated.
“The house where that family lives, was only constructed on the land after we spoke to the LSA.
“They [LSA] gave us permission to build there because the families were originally on highway reserve land,” Rambachan said.
“I am investigating the matter. It could be that whoever went to the family may not have been legitimate, but I am looking into it.”