By Kurt Campbell
[www.inewsguyana.com] –Citizens residing in Timehri North, East Bank Demerara are angry at the current administration which they say continues to threaten their livelihood and intimidate them as it pushes ahead with the expansion of Guyana’s main port of entry – the Cheddi Jagan International Airport (CJIA).
During a visit to the area on Tuesday, December 16, residents showed iNews acres of flattened farmlands upon which they once cultivated fruits and vegetables that they sold to maintain themselves and families.
Residents say they continue to receive notices informing them of the need to relocate, which they believe is an intimidation tactic since word in the community is that the design of the project has been altered.
However, lands that are inhabited have not been affected just yet. The residents, who have always voiced their disagreement with relocating, say they are now unsure of the government’s position on the project which has been marred by various problems.
“You cannot continue to be slapped and laughing,” Shadow Minister with responsibility for infrastructure Joseph Harmon told residents during a visit to the area on Tuesday.
He called on the government to make a clear and definitive statement on the status of project.
“Let them [residents] know whether there has been a change to the design and tell the people who live here whether they will still need to be removed,” he urged Public Works Minister, Robeson Benn.
Harmon said too, “How can you bulldoze homes and remove hundreds of residents who have been living here even before the airport got the lease for this land and tell them you have to remove them, whether you’re confirming to the United Nations standards for the relocation of citizens… this is not a fly by night community, it is a well-established community with roads, lights and water.”
While he believes there is the need for a bigger airport, Harmon said the concerns of residents must be given priority and ensure the country gets value for money.
He noted that slackness, poor negotiation and execution has negatively affected the project which will see an additional US$20 million of taxpayers’ money likely to be utilized while the US$138 million promised by the Chinese are yet to be released.
He said it was important to “separate fact from fiction” and expose the real reason behind the perceived failing project.
The Shadow Minister reminded that prior to the 2011 general elections, the current government had signed a contract for extension of the airport which the Chinese had promised to provide the loan through the China Exim Bank.
“The project should have been completed in 32 months and by now we should have been looking at a brand new facility but like the PPP nothing goes,” he added as he dismissed the notion that the funds which were disapproved by the Opposition in the National Assembly were responsible for any setbacks experienced.
Harmon says if answers are not provided and with elections looming; the project will be subject to review under an APNU government. He explained that the APNU will scrap the project if the need arises but if it proves to be worthy, then it will be continued.
Harmon said Benn needs to let the country know exactly where the project stands and what will happen to those who reside in the area.