The attorney representing the six families affected by 2021’s massive landslip in Claxton Bay has blamed “obstacles” on the part of the State for the delay in settling the matter.
Attorney Prakash Ramadhar joined the affected residents at Diamond Road on Friday to highlight what he considered the “obscenity in our system.”
He said there was too much injustice and abuse taking place because of a lack of conscience.
Ramadhar said the Estate Management and Business Development Company Ltd (EMBD) had given an undertaking through its lawyers to settle the matter. He said he and his team provided full valuations and other documents, as requested, since early last year, to have the issue amicably solved.
“We have about 20 or 30 bits of communication, apart from oral conversations.
"They have now asked in this latter period for a survey of the lands that no longer exist. That is an obscenity. They want us to produce survey mapping now of the land that we occupy
“We have invited them to please do, do it at your own cost, do it in your own time.
"But we are not concerned about that. We are convinced and certain of what we occupy and can prove that.”
Ramadhar added that Jason Mootoo, SC, had masterfully represented EMBD. Ramadhar said there are people “way up in the chain of command” who have given words of comfort, but that has not led to a resolution.
The ordeal began before dawn on September 15, 2021, when rapid land movement destroyed the home of Giles Garcia, his wife Anastasia Morris-Garcia, and her two adult children.
The displaced occupants looked on helplessly as their concrete house and its contents sank and slid about 200 feet.
Other houses have since been destroyed, and others are on the brink of collapse.
The affected area is outside the boundary of the Coco Road quarry, owned by the EMBD. The residents blame extensive quarrying for the land movement.
Ramadhar said, “to add insult to injury and insult to hurt,” one of the affected residents (Allan Miller, 72) received a notice of valuation for property tax.
The back of his home has already been destroyed, and the house is metres away from destruction.
“That in itself is horrific. Do you know that EMBD is insisting that the valuation for the lands here must be done as agricultural? All of these are homes, residences," Ramadhar said.
“Because in some ancient period, it was deemed to be agricultural, they are insisting that whatever valuation be done, that it be deemed as agricultural, therefore carrying a very much lower value. We have been so reasonable to the point that we are unreasonable to ourselves.”
Miller received a valuation letter dated October 19 from the Finance Ministry (Valuation Division) about his property. He lives with his wife Julia Miller, 66
They have been living there for the past 32 years and had a garden at the back of the house.
Ramadhar said before the land movement, the area was almost a paradise, with the most beautiful fruit trees, the most beautiful environment, neighbours loving neighbours, looking after each other, and a wonderful community.
The residents want to be “fairly compensated” for their loss.
Garcia, 64, recalled the morning of September 15, when he and his family lost their home and helplessly watched as the house “crumpled.
The former homeowner said he is trying to recover, but cannot.
“Social and Development Minister Donna Cox tried to make us feel comfortable. But words alone do not make us comfortable,” Garcia said.
“In the beginning, I was saying, 'I love my government, and my government is a good government.' Today, I cannot say that."
Days after the initial disaster, Cox visited the site and offered the residents counselling and rent-assistance grants for up to six months.
Garcia said he received the grant for six months, but had to fend for himself after that. He has been staying with relatives. No one else took up the offer.
He added that on December 31, 2021, he spoke with then-Housing Minister Pennelope Beckles about a place to live.
When her portfolio changed, Garcia said she called and told him to reapply and “let them know the situation.
“It was disappointing, and it seems parliamentarian was not talking to parliamentarian,” Garcia added.
He said he has been having problems sleeping. Garcia recalled he had a beautiful garden, and that too had been destroyed.
“When people ask me how I am doing, I tell them that there is a God.”
Pensioner Marva Fritz, 70, said the ordeal had taken a toll on her health, and a few weeks ago, she was hospitalised. She said she grew up in the area and had been staying at different relatives' homes.
Another affected family, Nadera Ramsaran-Williams, her husband Chester Williams and their two children, 17 and 23, live in fear. Part of their house has collapsed, but they have nowhere to go.
Ramsaran-Williams clasped her hands and begged the authorities to settle the matter.
Calls to the EMBD for comment went unanswered.