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75-year-old Byrea man gets keys to new home

75-year-old Byrea man gets keys to new home

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Cleophus Neptune lived under a grape tree on the Byera seashore for many years – but no more!{{more}}

Thanks to the government’s relocation project, the 75-year-old man will now be opening the door of his brand new one-bedroom low income house in the new $1.4 million Byera settlement: Manning Village!

“A man hit me in my head already because I was defending the Prime Minister. It was worth it now, I thank the Prime Minister so much,” the ecstatic elderly man told SEARCHLIGHT following the official handing over ceremony last Tuesday, October 28th in Byera.

Neptune, who will occupy house number one, is one of 17 persons who have been snatched out of “sea-water mouth” and will be the first of 33 families that will eventually occupy Manning village.

As he delivered the feature address, Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves explained that following the passage of Hurricanes Ivan and Dean in 2004 and 2007, respectively, the decision was taken to put an end to all those dangerous seashore settlements on the eastern coast of St Vincent.

It was this intention that gave birth to the project for persons from Byera and Gorse. Twenty-two houses have already been given to persons who were living in similar conditions: 10 in Magum, Sandy Bay, and 12 in Langley Park, Georgetown.

The Byera project was developed on eight acres of land, and has cost $1.4 million thus far, the majority of which came from TT$4 million solicited from the Patrick Manning led Trinidad and Tobago government, hence the suggestion that the new village be named after the Trinidadian leader.

“The bulk of the money from Patrick Manning was spent here and that is why I want to suggest…I want to put up a sign, if you agree and call inside here Manning Village, because the money from Patrick Manning, “ Dr Gonsalves said to a loud applause.

In addition to the 18 houses already built, there are still 15 lots available on which similar houses, and a few for the soon to begin “no income” housing project are to be built.

There were cheers and some expressions of disagreement as National Emergency Management Organization (NEMO) Director Howie Prince announced the recipients of the seven 2-bedroom, seven 1-bedroom, and four 3-bedroom houses.

One 3-bedroom house’s allotment is still to be arranged.

During his address, Dr Gonsalves urged persons who did not receive houses in the first allotment not to grumble because more houses will be built.

He used the opportunity to lash out at the record of the New Democratic Party (NDP) in relation to housing and disaster management, calling them “barefaced” for questioning his government’s disaster management record, especially the performance of NEMO.

He accused the NDP of the 1980s of trying to carry up the expense of poor people in New Byera village, who were at the time benefitting from the generosity of a land gift from former plantation owner Victor Hadley, which was brokered by then parliamentary representative for the North Central Windward constituency, Sir Vincent Beache.

Dr Gonsalves also said that an “act of negligence” by the NDP nearly cost the country US$6 million in aid from the World Bank. He said that it was through his government’s stewardship when they came into office in 2001 that the money was secured, from which river defences in Colonarie and Langley Park were constructed, the NEMO headquarters and the Layou waterfront were also built, among other things.

Speaking about the packages that are to be worked out between persons involved in the relocation project and NEMO, Minister of Housing Julian Francis said that a key aspect is that the seaside dwelling houses of the persons will be destroyed.

He made it clear that once the deals are done, no one will be able to live in these places again and the lands will be turned over to the Ministry of Forestry for re-planting.

The packages will have different slants to them, including some, where persons may be given their life interest in their low income house, after which the house will be returned to the government.

Some packages will be organized to allow persons who can, to purchase the properties.

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