Squatters, who are in the critical pathway of the Cheddi Jagan International Airport Corporation (CJIAC) expansion were on Wednesday, August 28, afforded the opportunity to apply for house lots as Government forges ahead with its relocation plan of the illegal occupants.
At least 25 residents turned out to hear what Minister of Public Works, Robeson Benn, and other officials had to say. A group of agitated residents protested outside against not being able to join the meeting which was intended for those persons living in the immediate path of the airport expansion.
According to Minister Benn, the most viable options immediately available are either to relocate at Yarrowkabra or at other existing housing schemes. For those who have already applied, Housing officials were on hand to take pertinent information regarding their applications, while new applicants were interviewed.
“We are committed to work out what assistance or help we can do with the relocation. The only things I could say definitively at the moment, and this matter was discussed at the Cabinet, that the area identified is Yarrowkabra…You don’t have to go to Yarrowkabra you can go to other places but the important thing is that we need pave the way to start the construction of the airport. For those who can move now we are prepared to provide the transportation to assist,” Minister Benn stated.
The Minister further noted that if the airport is not expanded and improved to meet the demands of the airlines, the business community and the travelling public then the entire country will suffer economically and more importantly, persons living in the Soesdyke/Timehri area will stand to lose financially.
Prior to the commencement of the meeting, persons claiming to be official representatives of the squatters demanded to be part of the audience. In light of this, Minister Benn explained that his ministry, along with key stakeholders, has agreed to relocate the squatters in phases.
“In terms of the immediate construction, you are the Phase 1 persons. Persons who are not immediately affected by the building or the extension of the runway will be looked at in Phase 2, and there is a Phase 3.”
Squatters were warned
Despite the numerous warnings by the Ministry over the years, persons continued to expand their living quarters on the Airport’s land.
In 1990, the Guyana Lands and Survey recorded 16 structures most of which belonged to the Guyana Defence Force. However, in 2002, a Housing Ministry survey recorded a significant upsurge – 216 dwellings were documented. Two other surveys executed in 2008 and 2013 revealed that those number s climbed to 299 and 325 respectively.
And now that the land is required for the airport’s expansion, Minister Benn pointed out; political pundits are using it for their own agenda.
“But I want to say this clear here, this is not just the interest of the Ministry of Public Works, or simply the interest of the Government – it is the public’s interest,” he charged.
Against this backdrop, Minister Benn urged the squatters to work with him to “make this process as seamless as possible.”
There are approximately 49 squatters in the Phase 1 of the Ministry’s relocation plan.