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A number of Central Leeward residents have been paid for lands used in road construction here. Last Tuesday, 23 property owners received a total of $514,269.00 from the Government in payment for lands acquired in 1997.

The lands were used for realignment and rehabilitation of the Central Leeward Highway. {{more}}

Permanent Secretary in the Transport, Works and Housing Ministry Leon Snagg admitted there were “snags” with surveying of the lands. However, owners were paid the market price of $2.50 per square foot with five percent interest.

Persons from Layou, Mt. Wynne, Peters Hope and Barrouallie gathered at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Commerce and Trade Conference Room to collect their payment.

Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves spoke in a direct and frank fashion. He seemed angry when he spoke and acknowledged that the people’s constitutional rights had been violated. For Gonsalves, the “State was obliged to make prompt and reasonable compensation.”

The Prime Minister regarded it as a “travesty of justice, if not a breach of the constitution.”

He noted that the highway was completed, and no payments were made. As far as Dr. Gonsalves was concerned, it was an “outrage” that no compensation was offered.

“The rule of law must be upheld,” he said, and pointed out that the persons had suffered as a result of the episode.

The Prime Minister apologised for the “gross disrespect” shown by the previous administration and praised the land owners for their “long suffering.”

Dr. Gonsalves paid tribute to Transport, Works and Housing Minister Louis Straker for his persistence in raising the plight of the affected residents.

Straker, the parliamentary representative for Central Leeward acknowledged that a burden had been lifted off his shoulders. He however confessed that there was still some ‘controversy’ in regard to the exact size of area used up in some instances.

For Straker, the action of the previous regime amounted to “highway robbery.”

“Not because you are building a highway that the government must be engaged in highway robbery,” Straker declared.