A woman and her daughter-in-law have commenced their lawsuit against the State over a move to demolish their homes in a squatting community in Valencia last year.
Ashiminee Joseph and her daughter-in-law Annessa Maharaj both took the witness stand before Justice Frank Seepersad at the start of their trial in the Port-of-Spain High Court yesterday.
In their lawsuit, the relatives are relying on the State Suits Limitation Ordinance, which protects squatters from being deposed of land once they have been living unimpeded on it for 30 years.
In her testimony, Joseph claimed that she and her now deceased husband purchased the five acres of land at Pine Avenue, Valencia, for $1,000 in 1983.
While she admitted that she had no surveyor’s plan for the land or photographs of it, she produced an over 30-year-old receipt for the removal of trees from then forested site.
“That is the price I pay for it,” Joseph said as she was being questioned by Terrence Bharath, who is representing the State.
She also admitted that she could not provide water and electricity bills for the property.
Joseph claimed that she and her husband first constructed a wooden house on the property before they built a concrete structure in 2012. In addition to living on the land, Joseph said she and her husband farmed it and sold their produce.
Joseph also claimed that they applied for a certificate of comfort from the State in 2007.
In her evidence, Maharaj said that Joseph gave her a portion of the property after she started a common-law relationship with her son.
Maharaj said that, since then, she and Joseph’s son spent over $800,000 building their home.
“I get rights from my mother-in-law. The land she gave me became mine. That was her land. She gave me that land,” she said.
Both women stated that State officials never challenged their occupation of the land, until a group of soldiers and police officers began demolishing properties in the community in May last year.
The action, which was coordinated by the Commissioner of State Lands, resulted in two days of fiery protest from residents.
Fifteen homes including Maharaj’s were bulldozed before Seepersad granted an injunction barring further demolition while the lawsuit is being determined. Joseph’s house remained untouched.
Source: www.guardian.co.tt (Derek Achong)