The confusion at Bon Accord as part of the Tobago airport expansion project is an early test for the new PDP administration of the THA.
At this stage, with discussions and negotiations under way for more than two years, it seems astonishing that there are still hold-outs against the compulsory acquisition of land by the state for the project.
Right from the start in April 2019, the National Infrastructure Development Company (Nidco) faced protests from residents of Crown Point, Canaan and Bon Accord who were affected by the land acquisition required.
Nidco has been dogged over the three years since by accusations of being high-handed in its approach to this process.
In January 2020, the Finance Minister announced a budget of $36 million to upgrade the existing terminal, $870 million to build a new airport terminal and $300 million for the acquisition of 53 acres of land stretching from the Store Bay to Bon Accord.
But the acquisition of the land has been a messy undertaking.
Tobago West MP Shamfa Cudjoe noted on her Facebook account on Friday that 11 people are still affected and have refused to discuss compensation or negotiate with the state. Ms Cudjoe noted that every month that the situation drags on adds another $5 million to the cost of the project.
At Crompston Trace, where a confrontation with police erupted on Thursday over the eviction of some occupants, several properties were acquired since as long ago as 1996, but the tenants of the properties were not called on to move.
There have also been issues with deeds, a legacy of Tobago’s scrappy landownership records and it hasn’t helped that lands allocated for the relocation of displaced residents at Shirvan and Cove haven’t been prepared for occupation.
The position of the THA Chief Secretary, Farley Augustine, on this matter only adds to the complications.
When Nidco moved to close the road between Silk Cotton Trace Ext and Crompston Trace according to its planning permissions in February, the newly installed THA insisted that the road be kept open.
Now, in his enthusiasm to defend the residents, Mr Augustine has overstepped, apparently assuming he has the capacity to stop the Commissioner of State Lands from proceeding with legal evictions.
That these proceedings have now been paused is the result of a stay until August 26 requested by the Agriculture Ministry through the office of the Attorney General, the Judiciary explained on Friday.
During that time, Mr Augustine might more profitably engage the Central Government in seeking a generally acceptable, fair and legal solution to the matter.
The Tobago airport expansion is key to improving the island’s tourism economy and while the politics of the situation might encourage him to take the side of holdout individual Tobagonians, the needs of the entire island are also in the balance.