Claim for $30,000 damages to garden
'Papa Bois' fights back
By AZARD ALI
Sylvester "Dogo" Binda, 70, a forest dweller for 40 years who was threatened last Friday with eviction from the Catshill forest in Mayaro by foresters who destroyed his two-acre garden to plant cedar trees, yesterday submitted a claim to the Director of Forestry for $30,000 in compensation. The written request was drawn up on Binda's behalf by the South-Eastern Hunters' Association.
Binda's remote home in the forest and his encounter with foresters last Friday was revealed in an exclusive Newsday report yesterday. Binda's only source of food is cassava and other ground provisions which he grows himself. He drinks water from ponds and uses "fever grass" as seasoning.
The hunters' association's president, Mohan Bholasingh, who submitted the claim on Binda's behalf, expressed anger yesterday over the manner foresters destroyed Binda's garden of cassava and yam. Describing Binda as an indigenous forest dweller, Bholasingh said: "People like Binda who utilises the forest to live must be taken into consideration. Indigenous people who live and belong to the environment cannot be destabilised simply to re-plant the forest."
Bholasingh's claim on Binda's behalf states that Binda was born in Grenada and came to Trinidad at age three. It stated that he was a charcoal burner and wood worker. The claim stated that Binda did not apply for a certificate of comfort because he was not a citizen of Trinidad and Tobago. On Binda's behalf, Bholasingh stated that Binda has been in occupation of the two acres of forest land for the past 40 years.
The claim also stated that Binda, even at age 70, is not receiving Government pension, is unemployed and lives on the produce from the land he occupies.
The claim states that $30,000 represents damage to his property, dislocation, destabilisation of mind, imposition of fear and general assault.
In the claim, Bholasingh also requested for Binda to be given title to the property. Binda, who is unable to read and write, placed his thumbprint on the claim document.
When Binda confronted the foresters, they challenged him to produce a deed for the land. Binda has reportedly had a shack on the land for the past 40 years.
The foresters from the Ministry of Public Utilities and the Environment are currently engaged in a reforestation programme in which they are planting trees in the Mayaro forest.
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