Tobago House of Assembly (THA) Chief Secretary Farley Augustine says he was advised by the Senior State Counsel that the court will hold a meeting on Friday, to see if parties involved in the eviction of seven families from lands at Crown Point chosen for the ANR Robinson Airport expansion project can reach some sort of middle ground.
He said his position is that while a new airport terminal is needed, people should be treated fairly in how the state dispenses with the compulsory land acquisition.
"We cannot approach it in the most draconian way, you're talking about uprooting families who have been there for generations," Augustine said at an event marking the opening of the Musical Instruments of Trinidad and Tobago Company (MITTCO in Diego Martin, hours after the THA had tried to ensure the families were not evicted from their homes by NIDCO yesterday.
Augustine said the eviction process was not done correctly from the beginning, noting he saw some of the eviction notices and felt the residents were being underpaid for their lands.
"In one case, they were offering 200 and something thousand. Two hundreds and something thousand cannot afford, in the Tobago context, with the price of real estate in Tobago," he said.
He said the Central Government and the THA need to pay attention and give care to the transitioning of these people.
"We need some more time," he said.
Augustine said the families were depressed and saddened by the circumstances surrounding the eviction and they spent Thursday night without electricity. He said the THA provided generators for them.
Meanwhile, Minister of Finance Colm Imbert says the THA has no power to instruct the Commissioner of State Lands what to do in the matter.
In a release, Imbert said the impression given by the THA that it had asked the Commissioner of State Lands to cease and desist from the acquisition proceedings for lands required for the construction of the new terminal building was inaccurate and misleading.
Imbert said the lands in question are urgently required for the construction of the new airport terminal in Tobago and the State has been in discussions with the occupants of these lands for the last three years.
He said the protracted discussions have delayed the commencement of construction of the terminal building and the delay is now costing millions of dollars.