WHILE Minister of Works Rohan Sinanan may gain from possible negotiations over land that has been acquired for the Curepe interchange, he claims there is no conflict of interest.
Sinanan yesterday explained why during a press conference at the Ministry of Works on the corner London and Richmond Street.
Sinanan said he was a director and shareholder in Kay Donna Drive-in Theatre until the lease for the property was bought by Valsayn Resort. After the lease for the property was bought, it expired. Sinanan added that negotiations between himself and Valsayn Resort to buy his shares in the company and property had not been completed, therefore if Valsayn Resort was to make any claims to the State for compensation on the land, he may stand to benefit. Sinanan noted that he has divested himself from any decision making where acquisition of the land is concerned, and has informed the Integrity Commission of his beneficial interest. He said since Valsayn Resort bought the lease which expired, they have not made any claims for compensation. He also said the property had been earmarked for acquisition long before he came into office as Works Minister.
“These are not properties that the ministry would have come up with two or three years ago,” Sinanan said. The land where Kay Donna Drive-in Theatre once stood is part of a large parcel of land, which government has earmarked for acquisition, to build an interchange between the Southern Main Road in Curepe and the Churchill Roosevelt Highway.
Marvin Gonzales, director of the Legal Services Unit in the ministry told reporters yesterday, Cabinet agreed to the acquisition of 22 parcels of land needed to build the interchange in 2013. Since then, the estimated parcels of land have been updated to 37, and includes properties belonging to business owners and residents. Gonzales added that through the Land Acquisition Act, the government surveyed the land through the Valuation Division and valued the land between $150 and $200 per square foot. Gonzales said some land owners had valued their land at three times the amount which was estimated by the Valuation Division.
“It is important to note that the Office of the Commissioner of Valuations is responsible for verifying the accuracy of all claims. In so doing, the Commissioner of Valuations Division provided the requisite proof to the residents substantiating the basis which offers were made for settlements.”
Sinanan added that the land owners would have to provide proof to support their claims that their property is worth what they claim. Gonzales also said the ministry has three months remaining to acquire the properties that were selected under the act, in order to fulfil its contractual obligations to the contractors who may be building the interchange. He said the lands were to be cleared and made available by the end of 2017, and if they do not fulfil their obligations, the ministry stands to pay millions of dollars in potential claims.
Two weeks ago residents in the selected areas were served with eviction notices, which said the government will be able to remove people from their land if they do not leave within a 14-day period. Sinanan assured that no resident would be evicted today, which is the deadline for eviction, but added that the eviction notices, which are also one of the options in the act, were served to expedite the acquisition process.