TRIO, Toledo District, Mon. Nov. 21, 2016–Six families in the village of Trio in the Toledo district have been displaced after 5 of their homes were set on fire and another was ripped apart sometime around 9 p.m. on Thursday as a result of an apparent land dispute.
One man was almost burnt alive inside his home, but the structure was resistant to the flames.
According to the displaced families, their homes were intentionally burnt down by a group of men who arrived in a truck and who were purportedly acting on behalf of a Chinese businessman who claimed to own the land on which these families had erected their homes.
Information to Amandala is that some time ago, the Chinese businessman had acquired the lands, which were once owned by the Thurton Estate.
According to the families, they worked hard to develop the land that previous PUP and UDP governments had pledged to the families that they would acquire from private landowners so that the families could gain legal ownership.
However, GoB never acquired the lands, and in February, the Chinese businessman had showed up on the lands in question, allegedly demanding $20,000 as payment in compensation from each family in return for permission to remain on the land. No one reportedly paid him.
On Friday, PGTV News met with the six families to hear their version of what had transpired.
Glenn Turcios, who was assisting the fire victims, told PGTV, “Well, right now at the moment we just came to do a freight for them, those workers that have their houses here, according to what they told me this morning. Yesterday, around 10 o’clock, a vehicle came and [the men in it] burned some houses here at the back of Trio.
“I came this morning and the man came and rushed to take out the things because, according to him, he was lucky he didn’t burn up in his house, because it looks like they pulled it [the house] with some rope to try and break it down, and light fire in the house. This house had like a tarp on top that couldn’t catch fire; it’s not pimento. This house is built of the thing they take out of the pan by those shrimp farms, and they couldn’t burn it, that’s why they pulled it out and tried to burn it.”
Turcios added that the villagers saw and recorded the license plate number of the vehicle in which the arsonists arrived on Thursday night.
One fire victim remarked, “We are pleading to the Government to respond. What do they want, people working, or people stealing? If they want people stealing, that is something easy to do. They left us without support. We have kids; it’s not only us. We have families. If they don’t help us, the kids will stop studying, and start stealing. We won’t be able to control them, and neither will the law. So, the government needs to decide today, people stealing, or people working.”
Turcios told PGTV that the matter was reported to police and that the license plate number of the arsonists’ vehicle was also revealed by the villagers in an official report.
On Friday, 7News conducted an exclusive interview with the Officer Commanding the Intermediate Police Southern Formation, Supt. Reymundo Reyes, who confirmed the incident.
“It was confirmed that five wooden structures belonging to different farmers were destroyed by fire. One of them was just broken up. Information is that there were five persons in the area who allegedly were the ones who destroyed the structures that were in the same farms,” he said.
Reyes further went on to state, “But there’s an allegation being made that the land where the structures are, belongs to a Chinese businessman. It is said that there’s a case in front of the court where the Chinese owner is alleging that that is his property.
“But the persons are saying that they have been living in these premises for the last 30 years and odd. So there’s a back-and-forth in court. So at this moment, police are in the process of recording statements and we’re trying to establish who were the persons that went back there and destroyed those structures, belonging to this gentleman.”
Reyes continued, “They believe that maybe it was the same owner of the land now; the Chinese man sent someone to destroy the buildings, but we cannot ascertain that at this moment. It would be 6 houses damaged; but five destroyed by fire and one of them was just demolished.”
Police have not made any arrests as yet in connection with the incident, but they confirmed that there were five arsonists on board a Mahindra pickup. Police investigations continue.