Crown Point residents cry ‘total disrespect’ as road to homes blocked

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Residents of Silk Cotton Trace and Crompston Trace, Crown Point, ponder their next move as China Railway Construction workers left boulders in the roadway leading to their homes on Friday. – DAVID REID

Total disrespect.

This was how residents of Silk Cotton Trace Ext and Crompston Trace, Bon Accord, described the move on Friday by China Railway Construction (Caribbean) Ltd to block three portions of the roadway leading to both communities.

China Railway is the main contractor on the $1.2 billion ANR Robinson Airport expansion project.

The angry residents, some of whom said they have not completed their negotiations with the Government to relocate, told Newsday the contractors dumped huge stones onto the roadway around 1.30pm.

But they quickly got a backhoe to remove the stones from the roadway.

They claimed the move was yet another attempt to forcibly remove them from the area to make way for the next phase of the project.

Owen Melville, who has lived in Silk Cotton Trace for the past ten years, said the residents are fed up of being disrespected.

He said it was not the first time the contractors had blocked the road to the area.

“We are being totally disrespected in all form and fashion. They don’t care about us and we need somebody to stand on our side for justice,” he said.

“Because when you look at how this is happening, it appears to the people who living here that if they lapse they will be brutalised.”

Melville said the residents are dissatisfied with the money being offered for their properties. He estimated that about 25 residents have not yet settled.

“The majority of the people have not settled because the money is too small. So, we need some person in authority – it might not be in Tobago – to let us know what it is going on truly.”

The residents said Secretary of Infrastructure, Quarries and Urban Development Trevor James visited the scene and assured he will do all in power to prevent a re-occurrence of the incident.

“Mr James came and from this representation we get here, I feel Mr James has to stamp his authority on this project.”

Another resident, Beverly Henry, shared the sentiment.

“We would like to thank Mr James for responding so quickly and standing up for the people of Crown Point,” she said.

“With the PNM nobody wasn’t coming. Like we in a lost world. But we are grateful and I just want to thank God today (Friday).”

Acting Senior Superintendent (Tobago) Junior Benjamin told Newsday he got a call from THA Chief Secretary Farley Augustine asking him to quell any possible confrontation at Silk Cotton Trace Ext.

“My understanding is that the contractor would have blocked the road again seeking to put things in place to continue the construction,” he said.

“However, I got a call from the Chief Secretary relative to what was happening and I would have directed my officers that at least the road should not be blocked until further consultation is done in this matter.”

Benjamin he said the residents managed to get a backhoe to clear the roadway.

“Now it is free for persons to traverse to get to their homes. It is a matter that is in progress. But we believe in the mediation process and this is what we are here doing – seeking to have law and order, especially as it relates to the residents.”

Benjamin said he was grateful the incident did not escalate into a violent confrontation between the contractors and residents.

As of July 2021, the Ministry of Finance said the State spent approximately $183 million to compensate some 115 people whose properties were being acquired to make way for the new terminal at the airport.

On that occasion, it said the National Infrastructure Development Co (NIDCO) was continuing to issue payments through its land acquisition consultants ACQ & Associates.

The ministry said the payout represented the cost of 30.33 acres of the 53 acres required for the construction of the new terminal.

It included nine commercial, 30 residential, six mixed home/business, one agricultural and 69 land-only properties.