Warner testifies for Chaguanas vendors

For­mer gov­ern­ment min­is­ter and Ch­agua­nas West MP Jack Warn­er has tes­ti­fied on be­half of street ven­dors from Ch­agua­nas, who are chal­leng­ing a pro­pos­al to evict them from a tem­po­rary lo­ca­tion which they have been oc­cu­py­ing for al­most eight years.

Warn­er took the wit­ness stand be­fore Jus­tice Kevin Ram­cha­ran, at the Hall of Jus­tice, in Port-of-Spain as the ven­dors’ law­suit against the Ch­agua­nas Bor­ough Cor­po­ra­tion be­gan yes­ter­day.

Un­der cross-ex­am­ined from the cor­po­ra­tion’s at­tor­ney Kelvin Ramkissoon, Warn­er re­peat­ed­ly claimed that he gave the ven­dors the as­sur­ance that they would use the prop­er­ty, lo­cat­ed on the site of the old Ch­agua­nas Health Fa­cil­i­ty, un­til a per­ma­nent fa­cil­i­ty is con­struct­ed there.

Asked whether he had the au­thor­i­ty to make the de­ci­sion, as back then he held the port­fo­lio of Works and Trans­port Min­is­ter, Warn­er said yes.

“I had the au­thor­i­ty. I did not make it sin­gu­lar­ly,” Warn­er said, but he ad­mit­ted he could not pro­duce a Cab­i­net Note to sup­port his claim.

Warn­er not­ed there was an ap­pli­ca­tion be­fore the Town and Coun­try Di­vi­sion for ap­proval to con­struct the pro­posed fa­cil­i­ty.

Ques­tioned by Ramkissoon as to whether he was aware that the ap­pli­ca­tion be­fore the Town and Coun­try Di­vi­sion was not made by the cor­po­ra­tion, Warn­er said it was made by a pri­vate com­pa­ny which had vol­un­teered its ser­vices to the Gov­ern­ment.

Ramkissoon re­ferred to a Cab­i­net Note dat­ed May 2014, which stat­ed that the ven­dors had to be re­lo­cat­ed to the old Globe cin­e­ma com­pound in Ch­agua­nas. It al­so stat­ed that the tem­po­rary site was go­ing to be con­vert­ed to a pub­lic park, as part of the bor­ough’s de­vel­op­ment dri­ve to be­come a city.

Warn­er could not com­ment on that doc­u­ment as it was made af­ter he re­signed as a gov­ern­ment min­is­ter in 2013.

Al­so tes­ti­fy­ing dur­ing yes­ter­day’s hear­ing was Anne Billinghurst, one of the three ven­dors who filed the law­suit along with the Ch­agua­nas Ven­dors’ As­so­ci­a­tion.

Billinghurst claimed that Warn­er and for­mer Ch­agua­nas may­or Or­lan­do Nages­sar had giv­en them as­sur­ances to oc­cu­py the site.

She al­so claimed that she and fel­low ven­dors spent var­i­ous sums of mon­ey to de­vel­op their in­di­vid­ual stalls.

Asked about a clause in their agree­ment which pro­hib­it­ed such de­vel­op­ment, Billinghurst main­tained that it was per­mit­ted.

Billinghurst lat­er ad­mit­ted the lo­cal gov­ern­ment min­istry held con­sul­ta­tions with them be­fore is­su­ing evic­tion no­tices in Jan­u­ary 2015.

In the law­suit, the ven­dors are con­tend­ing that they had a le­git­i­mate ex­pec­ta­tion from the oral as­sur­ances they re­ceived from Warn­er and Nages­sar.

Short­ly af­ter the claim was filed in 2015, the ven­dors ob­tained an in­junc­tion from the High Court pre­vent­ing their evic­tions un­til the out­come of the case.

At­tor­neys rep­re­sent­ing the ven­dors and the cor­po­ra­tion are ex­pect­ed to present oral sub­mis­sions in the case to­day.

Nages­sar and cur­rent Ch­agua­nas May­or Gopaul Boodan were present in court for the hear­ing but did not par­tic­i­pate in the tri­al.

The cor­po­ra­tion is al­so be­ing rep­re­sent­ed by So­nia Gyan.

Reporter: Derek Achong

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