Spokesperson for residents affected by the ANR Robinson International Airport expansion project Rhonda Hackett has warned residents not to negotiate one-on-one with the Tobago House of Assembly or National Infrastructure Development Company Limited (Nidco).
Residents have been given a November deadline to vacate their properties to begin construction work on the new terminal. The land acquisition process has not been well received by residents who feel they are being shoved out from their homes. Residents have been calling for more time and also for land to be part of their compensation package. THA Chief Secretary Kelvin Charles has said the THA will intervene in the process and meet resident one-on-one.
Speaking to Newsday on Monday, Hackett said she has been liaising with a lawyer and a valuator to seek more information on the residents' behalf.
She said, “We know eventually negotiations is something that is to take place. The one-on-one that persons have been called to is a premature operation and as I have been advised by a professional, it is a strategy that is utilised by an acquiring body that seeks to snuff out those that are vulnerable to ensure that you have them locked in, and then the greater strength of the wider group will be weakened."
She called on officials from Nidco to meet with the residents and listen to their plight, while bringing them up-to-date on the process.
“We are making an appeal... Nidco needs to come and meet with the people and have a consultation. The Government has issued section three notices before any consultations ever took place, and when they finally came, they only came to do their CEC (Certificate of Environmental Clearance).
“This thing can be done where we have a win-win situation, right now it feels like a lose-win situation, and we’re saying, first communicate with the people, have genuine consultation to really understand where the needs and concerns are of the community.”
Hackett recalled in previous discussions, land allocation for residents were discussed, with allocations pointing to Friendship and Shirvan. She said Shirvan has been predominantly favoured by the majority of people within the area.
Bon Accord resident Owen Melville, who is likely to be displaced by the expansion project, said, “How could I feel satisfied when I really don’t know the truth about what is taking place?”
Speaking with Newsday on Monday, an angry Melville said the issue was an emotional one, as the residents lacked the necessary information to make a vital decision about their future.
“We are in a dilemma because we don’t know where is up or where is down, we have no kind of information from the authorities and whensoever they come to us, they’re not coming officially or genuinely so as to give us some good feelings or that we can have a confident feeling about our future.
“Where we’re going, how we go live, what our survival will be; the kind of stress and pain we are feeling, the heartbroken feeling... we don’t know where to turn, what to do."
Another resident, Wolwin Lovell, said the November date for evacuation is too soon.
“We are not against the development of the new terminal building, we love that, we welcome that for Tobago but what is the rush? First of all, we want lands... We said that they should provide lands for us, then give us our package to build back our building. Give us at least one year to build back...When you give us our lands, give us our compensation package now to go build, give us one year.”
Lovell called on THA Chief Secretary Kelvin Charles to intervene.
“I’m saying to the Chief Secretary, we put you in power, we voted you there to represent we the people, man up yourself. If you are saying on the air for us to go in and talk one-on-one...why can’t you come and talk with the people, you afraid of the people? Well we are not afraid of you.”