Former chief secretary Hochoy Charles believes the main problem plaguing Tobagonians is ignorance. He made this claim on Thursday as he addressed residents of Canaan/ Bon-Accord and environs affected by the ANR Robinson International Airport terminal expansion project. The forum was held at the Anne Mitchell Gift Auditorium of the Scarborough library and discussed the socio-cultural, economic and political implications of the project.
“Can anybody tell me what law (Land Acquisition Act) authorises the Central Government to come here and do anything on the airport?” Charles asked the audience.
“Our problem in Tobago is not Trinidad… it is the Tobago people. When I say Tobago people I mean, we… the voters in Tobago have been giving people the authority…to treat you like dirt.”
He warned Tobagonians that the building of the new airport terminal is an election ploy.
“There is a trick in it – elections coming up. They want to do a major project in Tobago, so that they can use that and say you can vote (PNM). If the THA that has to contest (2021) election to run the THA, when the time comes break down your house, send tractor there for you, they cannot come and tell you vote (PNM).”
He said residents should have all their questions answered and have their own houses in order before engaging the National Infrastructure Development Company Limited about compensation for their properties.
“Why you all discussing compensation? You all don’t understand when you setting a trap for yourselves? From the moment you start to discuss compensation with the government, it is assumed that you agree.”
He said the issue of compensation is challenging as land regularisation continues to haunt Tobagonians.
He said that every country that was under British rule – all the English-speaking countries – had the same problem.
“Guyanese are government in Guyana, so Guyanese fix Guyana problem; St Lucians are government in St Lucia, so Lucians fix St Lucia problems; Antiguans are government in Antigua, so Antiguans fix Antigua’s land problems; Tobago government dey ah (sic) Trinidad and they want the land here…
“Tobago have one problem… one enemy… your enemy is ignorance. The day you get rid of that one enemy ignorance, Tobago will become the envy or the love of the world or the both of them. I have learnt that people treat you the way you treat yourself. We stand together, it’s only when we stand together and speak with a voice… one voice of Tobago that this thing will stop,” Charles said.
Charles reminded Tobagonians any work associated with the airport and the sea port is the responsibility of the Tobago House of Assembly.
“I hear people saying that (ANR) Robinson built the deep water harbour and Robinson built the airport in Tobago, but let me tell you the truth. The THA built both of them, but because Robinson was our representative and prime minister we never, ever contradict that."
He said there are two activities left to be done in order to complete the original airport project, as he recommended residents try to gain as much information from Sylvan Rollocks and Clyde Adams, both of whom would have served on the board of the Airport Authority previously and would have a wealth of information on the issue.
He said under the original airport design agreed upon there would have been no relocation of residents.