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Once again, the residents of Timehri North are under attack, allegedly by well-known persons, some of whom are currently employed as ‘staff’ at the Cheddi Jagan International Airport and own several lots in the disputed area.
I will give a brief background to this problem to bring clarity to your readership. Just prior to the November 28, 2011 General and Regional Elections, the PPP/C Government, under the leadership of President Bharrat Jagdeo, entered into a loan agreement with China Exim Bank valued US$150M for the Timehri Airport Expansion Project. US$138M of that amount was loaned to Guyana by the Bank, while the additional US$12M was to be covered by the People of Guyana. Neither a feasibility study nor an Environmental Impact Assessment. was conducted for this project. This would have identified the possible need for relocation of residents and steps taken to ensure a seamless relocation of residents.
It would be remiss of me not to place on record the push back, in and out of Parliament, by the then Combined Opposition parties (APNU and AFC) regarding the secrecy and lack of transparency of the project. The Ramotar administration acted ultra vires, regarding the principles of Parliamentary Scrutiny. Incidentally, twelve years later and the project is yet to be completed.
At the start-up of the project, it was reported that the homes of residents residing north of the airport were in proximity of the ‘expansion project,’ so they were required to remove. There was a standoff between fifty-seven residents and then Minister of Public Works, Mr. Robeson Benn, who demanded their removal without providing alternative housing. Again, the combined Opposition provided leadership on the ground between 2012-2014 and made representation through the National Assembly.
As fate would have it, a change in Government in May 2015 saw the Coalition Government employing a more consultative and participatory approach to the unresolved issue. The records would reveal that only nineteen residents needed to be re-located. Under the leadership of former Minister of Public Infrastructure, David Patterson and team, the residents were engaged, solutions agreed to, and a relocation plan implemented. Without oil revenue, the Coalition Government took full responsibility for the construction of homes for the displaced residents. This is what a caring administration does, not demolish homes and flood areas while residents are away from home; as was done in Hill Foot, Caneview Mocha, Parika area and Success.
On Wednesday August 23, 2023, my Colleague Mrs. Simona Broomes, and I met with residents from another Section of Timehri North, who are seeking to bring the matter to the attention of the public and hoping for a favorable solution. It was observed that one CJIA employee has fenced off land and erected two signs “Property of Public Works and Property of CJIA.” As far as residents are aware, the erection of the signs was not authorised by the Department of Lands and Survey, the agency responsible for state land, or the Ministry of Public Work.
It is clear that the PPP/C Government is uncaring and has no respect for some sections of society. Of interest, is the fact that Timehri South, which is occupied by persons perceived to be supporters of the PPP/C, has been regularised and the necessary infrastructure put in place.
The Ali Administration needs to stop facilitating land grabbing by the wealthy and politically aligned and ensure that CHPA fulfills the mandate for which it was established i.e., to provide affordable housing solutions for the low- and middle-income citizens.
I call upon the PPP/C to re-establish an Inter-Agency Committee to address land allocation, regularization, and relocation of residents when necessary. This criminal treatment of low and middle income in the name of infrastructural development must come to an immediate end.
Annette Ferguson, MP
Shadow Minister of Housing and Water