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"Haig Community United" vs Chaguaramas Development Authority by Eugene Reynald

posted 5 Jul 2015, 11:47 by Gerry Kangalee
1. Haig Community United also called the Guave Road Farmers Association is an NGO formed by the Farmers and was represented by Mr Colvin Blaize and Mr Farai Hove Masaisai of Hove & Associates, Attorneys-at-Law. The CDA was represented by Douglas Mendes SC. 

2. The matter was the hearing of an Injunction brought by the Farmers to restrain the Chaguaramas Development Company from destroying crops and property belonging to the Farmers, arresting and assaulting the Farmers and carrying out Development Works on lands in and around Guave Road which the farmers have been working for more than sixty years. The issue of stopping the on going stripping of the Guave Road lands of its valuable top soil and transporting it to areas outside of Chaguaramas in what clearly is a commercial operation was also raised but was not entertained by the Judge.

3. The Injunction was an interim measure pending the hearing of the substantive action in which the Farmers are claiming possessory title to the land by way of adverse possession. Their claim is they have been in possession and control of the lands since the 1950s and in support of this, have produced aerial photography and expert professional evidence going back to this period and submitted affidavits from several persons. They have several other affidavits from persons who were actually farming in the 1960’s and items of evidence which support their claim. Their claim for possessory title does not need all of this evidence so what they have is more than sufficient support for what they seek.

4. The CDA to date have produced no evidence in support of their claim of ownership – and indeed there is evidence to support the fact that their development of lands in Chaguaramas is not being carried out legally or by way of any due process. The farmers are also challenging the CDA’s ownership rights to the land but the Judge was not inclined to hear such during the Injunction.

5. The Court ordered that written submissions be filed with regard to the interim applications made for the injunction and the matter would be heard and a decision made on the injunction on the 29th day of July 2015.

6. A procedural point was raised by Senior Counsel Mendes who stated that the NGO did not have Locus to represent their members. According to the Honourable Justice Frank Seepersad the NGO “Haig Community United” also called the Guave Road Farmers Association was only recently formed and registered as a legal entity and could not alone represent the interest of the Farmers. He ordered that the Claim be amended and all 16 farmers be named as claimants in this matter against the CDA.

7. The Judge refused to restrain the CDA from carrying out its ongoing destruction of the land and the Attorneys for the other side refused to advise his Client to provide such an undertaking. The decision of the Court has therefore allowed an organisation that has not proved its ownership rights to the land to strip and destroy what is considered to be the best agricultural lands in the country. Despite submissions by Learned Counsel for the Farmers that the ongoing destruction of the lands in Chagaramas by the CDA would render any possible decision by the Court in Favour of the farmers useless as the destruction would be irreversible. Heedless of this the Judge adjourned the matter to the 29th day of July despite the Application for the injunction being filed on the 15th day of June 2015 and time being of the essence to prevent the irreversible destruction of the land and the ongoing suffering and loss of the farmers, their families and their communities.

8. The matter is to come up for hearing again on the 29th July and until then the CDA can continue doing what they are doing on the land and to the farmers even though it may turn out that the lands do not belong to the CDA and/or the farmers rights to the lands are upheld in a subsequent matter.

9. If that takes place the actions of the CDA and those directing its agenda will have to be considered crimes and farmers will have to be substantially compensated in several ways by the taxpaying citizens of Trinidad and Tobago – and may very well end up much better off than if they are left on the land. There will also be no one held responsible for the unnecessary expenditure of public money in compensation payments, the destruction of the best agricultural lands in the country, the crimes that will have been committed against the farmers by persons in the CDA including praedial larceny of their crops, larceny of their belongings, the loss of food to the public, untold loss and destruction to communities in the West, etc.

10. Of course despite all the aforementioned and much more, the Law and the CDA’s Lawyer will be satisfied that they have done their respective jobs well and several private sector parties will again have enriched themselves at the expense of the national interest, the Exchequer and the public patrimony.

11. The farmers are not happy with the Orders of the Court or with the procedures it is insisting should be followed. An Appeal can be launched but that will result in further time being given to the CDA to continue with its “activities” - who it should be noted, have not yet proven to the Court that it is acting legally.

12. The obvious conclusion from all the aforementioned is that the farmers are being disadvantaged in all areas and the interest of the State and its citizens are being put at risk in several respects.

13. Justice Must Not Just be Done but Must Also be Seen to Be Done.