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Arima business given six weeks to quit state lands
An Arima couple who built a thriving business on state land alongside the Churchill-Roosevelt Highway have been given six weeks to move out. Justice Maureen Rajnauth-Lee made the order in the Port-of-Spain High Court at the conclusion of a claim to the land brought against the State and the Ministry of Works and Infrastructure.
Curtis and Tana Gayadeen have run a bar and a Lotto booth on an 18,000-square-foot parcel of land at the corner of the Churchill-Roosevelt Highway and Tumpuna Road in Arima since 1957. In their claim, which was filed on March 23 last year, the couple sought declarations that they were the owners of the contentious parcel of land and that the State had no right title or interest in it.
The ministry sought to reclaim the land last year to complete the Churchill-Roosevelt expansion project in the area. The couple’s attorney, Senior Counsel Ramesh Lawrence Maharaj, contended that since they occupied the land—for more than 50 years— no highway had run through the property.
Maharaj noted that although the State acquired the land in 1945 for the expansion of the highway, no work was done until a few years ago. Avory Sinanan, SC, appearing for the State, countered that when the Government acquired the land in 1945, a public right of way was established.
Sinanan said that once lands were acquired, the rights of the public were preserved and were immune from any claim of possession. In her 31-page judgment, Justice Rajnauth-Lee agreed with Sinanan’s arguments. She ruled that the State had not breached the Gayadeens’ constitutional rights.
“The Gayadeens have no right, title or interest in the said lands which can defeat or extinguish the dedication of the said lands as a public right of way,” she said. After consulting an employee of the ministry who was present in court, Sinanan said a six-week timeline for their eviction was fair, considering the deadlines set for the completion of roadworks.
Maharaj told the court he would have to consult with his clients before filing an appeal. As part of her judgment, Justice Rajnauth-Lee ordered that the couple pay the State’s legal costs, which included two senior attorneys. Also representing the Gayadeens were Rickki Harnanan and Vijaya Maharaj, while Larry Lalla and Sarfraz Alsaran appeared alongside Sinanan for the State.
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