CJIA expansion…Removal notices were issued to residents, farmers several times – Robeson Benn
By Leonard Gildarie
Moves to relocate several persons in the vicinity of the Cheddi Jagan International Airport
(CJIA), Timehri, to make way for the facility’s expansion project, are meeting resistance, but government is insisting that this contentious atmosphere should not have existed, as it has been issuing notices for some time now.
While a group representing farmers is claiming over 3,000 persons will be affected, CJIA officials have denied this, claiming the figure is way below that. A number of bars, shops, homes and farms will be removed, along with scores of homes in the buffer zone, in order to facilitate the smooth construction of the new airport.
Airport officials said that there are about 25 shops next to the present terminal building. The airport corporation owns most of the land north of that, where there are approximately 300 houses with about 900 occupants. All of the shops and houses are said to be on land belonging to CJIA.
Earlier this month, CJIA issued a 30-day notice for removal of persons living and operating in immediate proximity.
Government is planning to spend upwards of US$150M to build a state-of-the-art airport complete with a longer runway, bigger terminal building and modern amenities.
Yesterday, Transport Minister Robeson Benn said notices were issued even as far back as when he had become the subject minister in the previous administration.
“For me, ever since I became a Minister, we have held a number of meetings with people who somehow became stakeholders in the airport operations and who have employment related to the airport,” Benn said in response to questions.
“As to there being illegal occupiers, trespassers and squatters, we have also pointed out that the runway has to be extended and a new airport terminal has to be built. There is an overriding safety risk associated with a large international airport. We have always given notice.
“We want to remove any perceptions of politicking safety issues relating to the development of our airport which is a key link for our trade and investment and to our Diaspora. I get the suggestions when I hear people speaking, that we should remove the airport somewhere else.”
According to the Timehri (North) Community Development Council, a vocal group which says it is representing affected persons and businesses, the move will affect over 3,000 men, women and children along with their buildings.
The group in a statement Wednesday said that the CJIA move will be destroying hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of cash and permanent crops belonging to the farmers on State lands that were left unattended, unmanned and unregulated from since the days of the colonial British.
It was stated that “a grave injustice of insurmountable proportion is being contemplated, and is about to be committed by the Government of Guyana, on a section of the populace that is opposed to its practices as they relate to the working people, those who are not overwhelmingly and ethnically affiliated to the party in Government and those who it is said are the last rung of the ladder.”
The group called on “all Guyanese, and civic-oriented organizations, political parties, members of Parliament, and the African Cultural Development Association to heed this call, and to assist an established community, of working and God-fearing residents, to resist this foul and evil endangerment of its people”.