Human element to airport project ignored

Members of the Provide Equivalent Equitable Compensation for Everyone movement protest outside Parliament during budget day in Port of Spain last Monday.
Members of the Provide Equivalent Equitable Compensation for Everyone movement protest outside Parliament during budget day in Port of Spain last Monday.

Retired head of the public service Reginald Dumas says there is a human element to the ANR Robinson airport expansion project, which the Government continues to overlook.

Dumas said the affected residents' concerns about being displaced from their homes in Crown Point, Canaan and Bon Accord could be challenged constitutionally.

"I am not satisfied that the human beings of Canaan/Bon Accord, who have been living there for decades in many cases, are being treated in the correct way. It strikes me now as being a constitutional issue in terms of the rights and privileges of citizens. And it may be that some attorney may want to take the matter up from that point of view," he told Newsday.

Dumas was commenting on Finance Minister Colm Imbert's statement about the project during last Monday's budget presentation at the International Waterfront Complex, Port of Spain.

Imbert had announced the Government had received a satisfactory bid from an international contractor for the airport terminal project and negotiations are expected to begin shortly with the preferred bidder.

The Tobago House of Assembly (THA) also recently received the certificate of clearance (CEC) from the Environment Management Authority (EMA) to develop suitable lands for the relocation of residents affected by the construction of the new terminal.

This clears the way for the assembly to begin development work on lands at Shirvan and Cove in preparation for displaced residents who choose to purchase subsidised land.

Dumas observed the issue has been creating "a degree of upset" among residents.

"This is a human factor. It is not merely a question of applying a law and saying we have the power under the Land Acquisition Act. You are dealing with human beings."

In his budget review, Dumas expressed concern about the delay in bringing internal self-government legislation for Tobago to the Parliament for debate. He recalled the issue was to have been before the Parliament at the end of 2018.

"We are now hearing that there is still a report that the Joint Select Committee has to do and that it will now be put in the first quarter of 2020. This is just putting off, deferring and not facing the issue. I am disappointed in that."

Dumas said he is also disappointed to hear the date for the finalisation of the procurement legislation has been postponed, yet again, to 2020.

"This should have happened some time ago because as far as I know the regulations are complete. So, I don't know why it is taking so long. It is clearly opening an avenue for corruption and for mishandling of public funds. So, I am also disappointed in that."

Dumas said he is still not pleased with this country's approach to education, which again received the lion's share of the budget – $7.548 billion.

"We seem to be still putting too much focus on passing exams and not looking at the world to see what types of education are increasingly necessary. I am not sure our education system is geared to that."

Dumas said the focus must be on critical thinking as opposed to the number of subjects one can accumulate.

On crime, he observed the emphasis is still centred on response initiatives as opposed to its root causes.

"A child is not born a criminal. Why does a child become a criminal? We are not looking at the social aspects of the issue. We could get away from a lot of these incidents if we made the intervention earlier and look at causes as distinct from effects."

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"Human element to airport project ignored"

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