Petrotrin Moves Against Land Grabbers

(Trinidad and Tobago Newsday, Azard Ali, 29.Oct.2018) — Starting today, Petrotrin will employ measures to stop people from grabbing its lands.

The state-owned refinery is expcted to cease operations on November 30, and transfer its assets into new companies being set up.

Even as it does so, it now faces an onslaught from people attempting to illegally occupy its lands.

Newsday understands that patrols are expected to begin today, and illegal structures will be demolished.

Tomorrow, Petrotrin officials will go out with the company’s police to erect eviction signs.

Expected to be evicted is the Church of God of Prophecy, at Mussarapp Trace, Barrackpore. Also expected to receive an eviction notices are a Hindu temple at Mussarapp Trace and the million-dollar Point Fortin Early Learning Centre (ELC).

Both buildings are on the company’s lands and are close to oil wells.

Petrotrin recently served demolition notices to the pastor of Church of God of Prophecy, who was asked to stop holding prayer services at the church.

The church building is within 100 feet of an oil well and poses a serious safety risk.

Attorneys for the church and oil company have been engaged in a legal battle over rights to the land. The church’s pastor is contending they had been in occupation of the lands for more than 17 years.

Tomorrow’s demolition notice will be the final legal step to demolish the structure which will take place 14 days after.

Petrotrin also wrote to a woman, named Leion Howard, about the erection of the ELC at Bryce Road, Point Fortin.

In the letter, Petrotrin’s manager of Lands and Service, Gerard Lewis, accused Howard of unlawfully entering the lands at Bryce Road, east of oil well FW257 and west of oil well FW 191.

The letter alleges Howard cleared the land and began construction on it.

The building, constructed of steal beams and concrete blocks, has cost about $1.5 million so far.

Petrotrin’s letter also informed Howard that she refused to obey previous notices to cease construction.

The letter said a safety risk existed because of the proximity to its active wells. I

“Petrotrin hereby gives you notice to immediately deconstruct and remove the aforementioned concrete structure from upon the lands. Please further be advised that failure to acede to this request will leave us with no alternative but to vigorously seek to protect our interest in the lands,” the letter said.

Howard was also told to demolish the building within 21 days.

Contacted in Barbados yesterday, Petrotrin’s chairman Wilfred Espinet said people’s need for housing must not be at the expense of putting their lives at risk by constructing churches and schools near oil wells.

He said the company has embarked on a hectic campaign against invasion of its lands.

“We appreciate people need for housing, but we must strive to become a rule-based society in which each and everyone must not do things to suit themselves. It is unfortunate, but we have to do the right thing because you cannot put people lives at stake.”



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