RESIDENTS of Canaan/Bon Accord who are affected by the ANR Robinson International Airport expansion project are determined to remain on their properties until Government is able to provide them with the most basic need – shelter.
Last week, residents under the banner of the PEECE (Provide Equivalent Equitable Compensation for Everyone) movement took up placards and engaged in a protest by lining the streets of Canaan in the vicinity of the National Infrastructure Development Company Limited (Nidco) sub office calling for impartiality in treatment.
In an interview, the group’s chairman Rhonda Hackett described the treatment being meted out to residents as “totally inhumane and unfair.”
“Unless this government takes what our needs are into consideration, we would not be budging. The basic needs are food, clothing and shelter…you cant shelter under a cheque and the money that is being given cannot allow you to not even start back where you were.
“It’s almost as if the Government feels that Tobagonians are fools and we don’t know how to calculate money, this is unacceptable, we would not have it,” she said.
On June 12, the Ministry of Finance announced the disbursement of $41 million to 29 property owners in the first wave of compensation for property comprising 5.33 acres of the 53 acres needed for the airport expansion project. It includes one commercial, four residential and two mixed (home/business) properties.
Last week Thursday, a second release from the Ministry of Finance advised that approval was granted for the payment of compensation to a further 12 property owners.
The ministry said that to date, 41 property owners have negotiated and settled with the State at a total cost of $58m. It said that the compensation now represents 8.7 acres of the 53 acres of land required for the construction of the new terminal and includes two commercial, nine residential and three mixed (home business) properties.
However, Hackett denied the ministry's information. “It is our understanding that many people who would have gone in to collect cheques had to run back out. Why? The compensation cannot build back house and buy land, it is totally inadequate.
“I don’t see that our Government will be boldly turning citizens of Trinidad and Tobago into vagrants…I don’t think any responsible government would be operating in this capacity,” she said.
She added: “Since 2018, the light has been showing red, we have been unable to do anything, we’re at a full stop right now. I am saying that it is time for the light to turn green, we need to go, and we need progress in our lives.
"There is too much stagnation and what is being offered, we are being demoted as citizens. PEECE is saying, this is totally unacceptable, and we would not change from our mantra, there would be no movement whatsoever without being resettled.”
She made reference to a compulsory acquisition which is she said took place in Trinidad. “In Curepe, they have created Frederick Settlement for the residents. For Curepe, 14 residents or property owners were issued $86 million.
"But in Tobago, 29 residents are being issued $41 million, do the math. More than half the number of people in Tobago, but less than half the amount of money also in Tobago, what is the reason for the inequity?
“We have stated clearly what our position is…put us back into a home, pay us adequately and give us enough time to rebuild. I don’t think the request is unreasonable. People in Curepe are currently building in Frederick Settlement and negotiations are still going on, why must we in Tobago be treated differently, unfairly, unjustly,” she asked.
She reiterated that residents are not in any way opposed to the airport expansion project, however they believe that the residents should be treated fairly by giving them enough time to rebuild their homes at the promised properties at Shirvan and Cove, while also compensating them fairly.