The Ministry of Works and Infrastructure wishes to advise the general public of a landmark court ruling recently handed down by the Appeal Court of Trinidad and Tobago in the matter of Curtis & Tana Gayadeen vs The Attorney General of Trinidad and Tobago (Civil Appeal No: 101 of 2012. Dated July 29, 2013)
The Matter arose out of a dispute over 18, 000 square feet of land situate at the corner of Tumpuna Road and Churchill Roosevelt Highway, Arima. The lands were said to be occupied by Mr. Curtis and Tana Gayadeen (appellants) since 1953 upon which they lived and operated a business establishment. The land formed part of a larger parcel of land acquired by the State in 1945 for the purpose of constructing the Churchill Roosevelt Highway and therefore, comprises part of the road reserve of the said highway.
The brief facts of the case are as follows:-The Ministry sought to evict the appellants from the land to expand the highway and contended that they do not have title or any legal claim of right to the said land despite the fact that they have been in occupation since 1953. The appellants claimed that they acquired possessory title to the property since they occupied the land for approximately fifty-nine (59) years and therefore, were entitled to be compensated. The Ministry argued that their occupation was illegal and that they were not entitled to compensation since, the land forms part of a highway and this status cannot be extinguished by the appellants’ prolonged occupation or usage over the years.
The court, therefore, upheld the trial judge’s ruling that the appellants do not have possessory title over the disputed land and ordered them to vacate the property and pay the State’s legal costs in the matter.
This ruling is significant in that persons illegally occupying State lands that form part of the highway or road reserve are reminded that their occupation is illegal and does not in any way entitle them to claim compensation against the State because of any perceived possessory interest or title they may claim.
The Ministry, therefore, recognises that this practice to be an endemic problem in Trinidad and Tobago and one that continues to expose the State to grave financial risks. In light of the ruling of the court, the Ministry intends to explore every opportunity to assert its rights over the highway and road reserves throughout Trinidad and Tobago. Citizens should take notice of this important ruling and immediately desist from the practice of squatting or illegal occupation of the highway or road reserves of the State.