Eviction stopped as THA backs residents in clash over airport land

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

China Railway Construction employees supervised by police remove furniture and other belongings from a home at Crompston Trace, Storebay Local Road, Bon Accord Tobago on Thursday. – David Reid

Wickedness to the highest order.

This was how some angry Tobago residents on Thursday described the attempted eviction of two families in Crompston Trace Extension, off Silk Cotton Trace, Bon Accord.

This is one of the communities to be acquired for the $1.2 billion ANR Robinson airport expansion project.

Most of the families in Crompston Trace and its environs have already settled with the State and agreed to be relocated to either the Cove or Shirvan estates.

The government had secured a loan of some $300 million to pay residents for the properties which were to be acquired.

National Infrastructure Development Company Ltd (Nidco) is the project manager for the airport expansion project and China Railway Construction Ltd is the main contractor.

Tyrell Percy (black jersey) points in dismay as his family’s belongs are removed from their home at Crompston Trace, Storebay Local Road, Bon Accord, Tobago, on Thursday. – David Reid

There were some heated moments as residents clashed with police and several of the workers from the construction company while the evictions were carried out.

Most of the THA secretaries and assemblymen, including Canaan/Bon Accord representative Joel Sampson, were also on hand to support the residents.

But after several hours of intense confrontation between police, residents and Chinese workers, the families were allowed to stay in their homes temporarily until the matter is fully ventilated in the courts.

Later, a release from the Office of the Chief Secretary of the Tobago House of Assembly said the residents and their attorney had obtained an emergency court hearing later Thursday at which they planned to file an injunction against the eviction.

The drama unfolded around 7 am when a group of Chinese workers and other people entered the homes of Tyrell Percy and another family and began removing appliances and other items, which were placed on the side of the road.

The action elicited a heated response from residents, some of whom were relatives of those being evicted.

At one point, community activist Leroy George, a former candidate for the Innovative Democratic Alliance, tried to put the families’ belongings back into their homes, but was prevented from doing so.

One irate resident said, “This thing has been badly handled from day one. I don’t know what they want people to do. Where they want people to live?”

Another angry resident shouted, “This is real wickedness to the highest order, boy. People really eh have no compassion again.”

One woman, who has been at the forefront of the airport relocation issue, complained about the way it was being done.

“We are willing to move, you know, but allow people to put the right system in place so that we could move out in a human manner. That is all we have been asking for,” she said

“When we seek to communicate with Nidco, they ignore us. From day one they act as though is dogs they dealing with. When you communicate with them, they do not answer, but they just put things in the media.

Kenroy Thomas, a neighbour of Tyrell Percy, passionately vents his anger over the Percy’s attempted eviction at Crompston Trace, Storebay Local Road, Bon Accord Tobago on Thursday. – David Reid

“So we don’t wish to fight with the State, I am just wary of this kind of operation.”

A confused-looking Percy, who said his family had not yet settled with the state, told Newsday he was about to get ready for work when the people came to his home and told him the family had to leave the premises.

“They told us that we were supposed to receive an eviction notice, but I don’t know anything about that. I have not received anything. And that is the downfall here right now. I don’t know what to say.”

Eviction notices were sent to the residents in early May.

Percy said he did not know what his next move would be and couldn’t explain his feelings.

“This situation is just a mess right now.”

Sampson condemned the action.

“We stand in defence of the people of Tobago, because this is very inhumane. We have people now coming into the people’s homes to move their stuff out,” he said.

“Look at what is going on, the Chinese…. I want persons in the diaspora to see what is going on this is sad and I don’t agree with it.”

Sampson called on the Prime Minister, as a Tobagonian, to intervene.

Superintendent Junior Benjamin, right, who supervised the attempted eviction of two families at Crompston Trace, Storebay Local Road, Bon Accord, Tobago, speaks THA Secretary Ian Pollard, left, about the situation on Thursday. – David Reid

Snr Supt Junior Benjamin told Newsday the police were called out to uphold law and order.

“They (residents) had due time to follow due process and we are going to ensure that the court order is executed. The court right now takes precedence. It is not just about serving notices at this stage, but taking possession of the land,” he said.

Benjamin claimed the residents had had more than enough time to get an injunction if they so desired.

“So we just have to ensure that the court order takes effect. I am here to ensure that that happens.”

When contacted, Nidco chairman Herbert George said the company does not have a position on the evictions.

“If it is happening at all, it is all part of making the site available for the intended works, which is being done not by Nidco per se but by the State, following the laws that they have in place for that. So Nidco is not involved there, ”he said.

On May 7, 2022, Crompston Trace residents accused Nidco and China Railway Construction Ltd of trying to displace them without compensation for their properties.

They made the accusation after segments of the roadway at Silk Cotton Trace Extension were blocked with boulders, which residents claimed was done to forcibly remove them from their properties.

George said then that even before the acquisition process for the airport expansion started, the Government had taken a loan of $300 million to pay residents for the properties to be acquired.

“That was done, so it is incorrect to say that we are displacing people and inconveniencing them by blocking the road and we have not paid them. That is not totally correct,” he told Newsday then.