New eviction date for residents displaced by Tobago airport

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

China Railway Construction employees remove furniture and other belongings from a home at Crompston Trace, Storebay Local Road, Bon Accord, Tobago on August 11. FILE PHOTO –

THA Chief Secretary Farley Augustine says Crown Point residents, who are to be displaced to accommodate the expansion of the ANR Robinson airport, have now been asked to leave their homes by September 15, 2022.

On August 11, families in Zone D of the project, on Crompton Trace, off Silk Cotton Trace, were shocked as workers from China Railway Construction Ltd – the main contractors for the $1.2 billion project – entered their homes in an eviction attempt. The workers were accompanied by police.

The residents’ furniture, appliances and other items were removed and left at the side of the road.

But after hours of heated confrontation between the residents and police, they were allowed to stay until the matter is settled in the court.

On August 12, the Judiciary said owing to court hearings on August 8 and 9, an undertaking was given by the Ministry of Agriculture, Lands and Fisheries through the Office of the Attorney General not to issue a warrant of Possession pursuant to Section 30 of the Land Acquisition Act against the occupiers and/or owners of plot number N61A, Bon Accord before August 26.

Speaking to the media on Tuesday at the Belle Garden Multipurpose Facility, Augustine told reporters the affected residents are now being asked to leave their homes by September 15.

However, he said they are in no position to do so.

“The last court hearing was on Friday last week (August 26) and the government’s side is preparing its affidavits to file, and that includes the THA,” he said.

“The residents in Crown Point received an additional notice this morning (Tuesday) asking them to move out by the September 15. They have responded to say, indicating that September 15 is unrealistic. It is way too soon.”

He said the THA’s position is that it is an “unrealistic timeline.” Augustine claimed the former PNM-led administration had promised to do several things for the residents and never did.

He added his administration now has to pick up the slack.

“There are several things the THA should have done long before now that the THA promised it would have done that the THA never did, that their own party people running Tobago never did on behalf of the people living in that area, that we now have to do.

“And we are saying it is virtually impossible to move all of these people and ensure that their livelihoods and their family life are not destroyed.”

Augustine said while there will be some level of disruption, “We do not want to destroy completely their lives and their livelihoods in this process.

“I am saying, give them a little more time and allow this much more progressive and this much more efficient THA to move the people in the most humane manner. I have been consistent in saying that. We cannot just throw people out. We cannot destroy people’s lives and livelihoods.

“We have to ensure that people are able to move and are able to retain some semblance of dignity in terms of their family life and their livelihoods. If we just shut the doors and kick them out of September 15, that is what will happen.”

Augustine said the court will continue to hear whether or not some “injunctive relief will be necessary to stay the hands of the Commissioner of State Lands in the matter.”

Tobago West MP Shamfa Cudjoe has said that for every month the State isn’t allowed access to the earmarked space to advance the execution of the project, taxpayers lose at least $5 million.