Tempers flared on Monday, and one man had the sound cut from his microphone as residents railed against the lack of information at a public consultation on land acquisition for the $500 million terminal at the ANR Robinson International airport.
Invited to the Rovanel’s resort, Store Bay Local Road for the consultation, residents, who were told that their land would be subject to compulsory acquisition by Government, asked whether compensation would be money or land, and what was in place relocate them.
The consultation was hosted by the Tobago House of Assembly (THA) and the Airports Authority of Trinidad and Tobago (AATT).
An irate Wolwin Lovell tried to speak to officials at the head table but instructions were given to cut off his microphone.
Lovell told reporters after the consultation that at a meeting some years ago, he was given the assurance that he would not be subjected to any eviction from his land, and so he went ahead and built a house, with all necessary approvals obtained.
“The Airport Authority along with the (Tobago) House of Assembly, they called a meeting and they said that they would not move us anymore, they would not move anyone. I now build a new house on my land, my plan was passed, everything passed, now they want to tell me that they are moving me...no way.
“I am not registering for nothing today until they can come and call a meeting where the people can voice their concerns. You cannot just come and rush things down our throats, it is like they are grinding metal and then toss it down our throats… we are just sitting back while they force the metal down our throats,” he said.
Lovell added: “I want them to listen to the people and pay people the just amount for their lands and for their buildings. My property is worth $2 million and that is what I want for my property.
“There are so many other lands, there are lands at Cove and lands at Kilgwyn…there are a lot of lands available still but why do they want to come and disturb the people who have been living here for years, to disturb our families. These are things that we need to consider.”
Lovell said he has been living on his property for over 40 years. He said the system was abusing the residents.
“I feel very insulted… I believe if they are trying to talk about international airport and betterment and improving our country, you need to sit and talk with the people. Let us, the people, tell you exactly what we want. I believe if Tobagonians stand up and fight for their rights, people cannot walk in and abuse us.
“They want to abuse us in this country… it takes people like me to stand up for this country in order for us to get good things. This is sheer disrespect,” he said.
Resident Claudette Nero Joseph asked about the value of compensation for her property.
“I am hearing here about compensation money, but I am not hearing about if you want land (instead) and money for your building. I’m living on a goldmine, I am living on diamond property and I would like to know if I am getting back diamond property,” she said.
Resident Lionel Thomas called for more information to be made available to residents.
“Where are they accommodating all these families? They just come here to rush through things, we need more information, no, this is not ending so at all,” he said.
The consultation ended with several residents refusing to register their names and the properties they owned or occupied, declaring they were disappointed with the way the consultation was done.