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Bragsa removes gate from Bigger Biggs’ property

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Chief Engineer Brent Bailey last Wednesday ordered the Buildings, Roads and General Services Authority (BRAGSA) to remove the gate from the property Leon “Bigger Biggs” Samuel owns at Rabacca.{{more}}

“The action was taken in accordance with the Roads Act of the Laws of St Vincent and the Grenadines, which gives authority to the Chief Engineer over all public access roads,” Bailey told SEARCHLIGHT yesterday.

Samuel had locked the gate to the property, even as farmers say there is a right of way there, that allows access to their lands.

But the businessman maintains that the property and the road there are private and told SEARCHLIGHT yesterday that he was concerned about the safety of the $1.5 million in equipment there, now that the gate has been removed.

The government has revoked Samuel’s permit to mine aggregate at Rabacca.

Bailey told SEARCHLIGHT yesterday that the area where Samuel was mining was “actually outside the lands that he has legal title to.

“That is one issue,” Bailey said, adding that the road was another.

“… the road that comes up from the Windward Highway is actually called the Old Carib Estate Road. [That comes] from the Lady Jane Bridge and it comes up and abuts his property, heads south and then up through other lands that are adjoining his property,” Bailey said, of the road that is at the centre of the impasse between Samuel and farmers.

“Now, where he erected his gate is across the road. Now this is an old estate road that was acquired by government from the Danes and so forth. And, as such, given that the lands were acquired by the government, and redistributed to the residents, the road, by virtue is a public road,” Bailey said.

But Samuel said the lands he now owns were transferred to private ownership since 1971, before the government acquired other lands in the area.

A 1971 plan of the area at the Lands and Surveys Department does not show the Old Carib Estate Road passing through the lands Samuel says he owns.

But SEARCHLIGHT understands that the road is represented on an aerial photography map of the area. However, SEARCHLIGHT was unsuccessful in securing a copy of this map ahead of the publication deadline yesterday.

But Samuel last week showed SEARCHLIGHT a document he said are minutes of a meeting of a government agency at which one attendee reportedly “revealed that the road through Bigger Biggs’ operation is indeed private and BRAGSA pays him a nominal fee for use”.

But, according to the document, the meeting further heard that Samuel “cannot legally stop the public from using the road, because of the right of access, which states that he has to be owner for more than three years and the road was being used a long time before”.

Samuel bought the lands in 2007 and said that he had owned the property for three years when the meeting reportedly took place.

He further said BRAGSA paid the previous owner of the land to have its equipment pass through the lands.

He gave SEARCHLIGHT a 2005 voucher showing BRAGSA paying Diana Edwards, the previous owner of the lands, “to provide access through own land to priority road work site”, an arrangement Edwards confirmed to SEARCHLIGHT last week.

Meanwhile, Commissioner of Police Keith Miller told SEARCHLIGHT yesterday that police officers were at the site when the gate was removed to provide security for BRAGSA personnel.

But Samuel said that now that the gate has been removed, he is “still waiting to see if … maybe the Police Force is going to put security there for my equipment.

“… That is the most important thing to me at the moment. The equipment that are there are very expensive. There are parts on them that can be removed that are very costly, so I am very, very concerned. So, I hope that they will think about that. So if there is no gate there, at least put some sort of security for me,” he said.

Miller said that the gate is in police custody “to prevent the furtherance of the commission of an offence”. (kentonchance@searchlight.vc)

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