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Monday 14 October 2019
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Tobago

'Slap in the face'

Section 4 vacate notices for airport affected

Canaan/Bon Accord residents prepare placards for a protest against the handling of the airport expansion project in May.
Canaan/Bon Accord residents prepare placards for a protest against the handling of the airport expansion project in May.

KINNESHA GEORGE-HARRY

Residents of Canaan/ Bon Accord affected by the expansion of the ANR Robinson International Airport terminal have began receiving section 4 notices, an action deemed as a “slap in the face” by a well-established attorney, currently aiding residents.

In a press release on Thursday, the National Infrastructure Development Company Limited (Nidco) said residents now have until February 2020 to vacate their property and hand it over to the State.

The release said: “Section 4 Legal Notices for the acquisition of lands were published in the Trinidad and Tobago Gazette on September 6 and are currently being served to affected landowners and occupiers. The Section 4 Legal Notice allows the State to enter and take possession of land to start construction of the new airport.”

It added, however, that the State will not take possession immediately, as affected residents will have six months from the service of Section 4 Legal Notices to vacate. The deadline to vacate lands is the end of February 2020.

It noted that affected residents are encouraged to submit their claims for compensation and begin the process of negotiation for settlement as soon as possible.

“Claimants can expect the payment of compensation to commence in mid to late October 2019, once settlement has been reached between the State and the claimant. Reasonable costs incurred in the preparation of claims will be paid by the State as part of a claimant’s compensation package, inclusive of the claimant’s valuer’s fee. Valuers will not be paid directly by the State,” it said.

The attorney, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, told Newsday on Friday, “The process that they have embarked upon leaves a lot to be desired. At a time when they (the residents) just held a meeting with the Chief Secretary, to come now and serve these notices, it is a slap in the face, a further misstep in my view, because not because they met in the office of the Chief Secretary it augurs well.”

The attorney said the Central Government would have taken this decision, “however, the manner in which they have gone about to begin with, in making the decision in the first place with compulsory acquisition and now having taken the decision, the process is unfolding. ”

The attorney said communication with the residents continues to be lacking.

“Instead of coming like a thief in the night last year May, when a consultation was held at the Rovanel’s hotel and that is when it was announced that the airport terminal building would have been constructed and 84 acres of land needed to be acquired...The whole process seems to be full of missteps and they continue to mishandle the situation.”

The attorney said although the terminal was always on the cards, the change in government resulted in an expansion of the initial project.

“In this tough guava season, they could have gone about it in a different way...Not just the location, the size... the general dimensions, I am sensing that that change to go eastwards of the existing airport terminal may have happened when the government changed in 2015. To me that is where there is a lot of transparency and there is a need to better understand when that shift happened, and even if there was shift... there would have been collaboration with the Airports Authority and the THA spearheading that process, and low and behold there was an announcement that Nidco would be managing the process, a process that concerns the lives of so many Tobagonians and that to me requires a level of care.”

Having received the notices, residents met on Thursday evening among themselves to discuss their next step. Contacted for comment, leader of PEECE (Provide Equivalent Equitable Compensation for Everyone) movement, Rhonda Hackett said residents are upset. She promised to host a press conference to update the public on the situation.

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