by Zena Henry
Despite being in office a little over three months now, Timehri North residents anxiously await any word on whether the government will regularize their community.
The matter of documenting the squatters became one of great concern when the former administration had decided to remove the residents to facilitate the expansion of the Cheddi Jagan International Airport (CJIA).
However, government officials say they have not yet come around to it. Minister of Communities Ronald Bulkan told Demerara Waves Friday August 14, that he is not aware of discussions so far to regularize the residents, while junior Minister with responsibility for Housing, Keith Scott said that he has not yet wrapped his mind around the matter.
With the national budget read only days ago, Scott says he is focused in that area, but suspects that consideration of regularizing the area will come in due course.
The CJIA expansion project, brainchild of the People’s Progressive Party (PPP), required the removal of all residents “squatting on airport land,” former Public Works Minister Robeson Benn had demanded. With minimal consultations with selected members of the community, the Timehri North Community Development Council had charged the government with trying to “divide and conquer” the community.
Benn had said that residents could not remain on airport property, charging his explanations to the danger that lies with living near to an airport. Despite strong resistance from the “squatters” the then government, maintain to date, that they must be removed.
Public Infrastructure Minister David Patterson, who took over the aviation portfolio from Benn after the May 11, 2015 polls, announced recently that only 12 homes will be removed as a result of the expansion project and will be relocated no more than a mile away from their community.
Some Timehri residents say they have lived in the community all their lives and refuse to move, especially when the government provided no sincere relocation plan. They said they were told by the then government to prepare for a regularization process that never took place, and although Timehri North was developed long before the Khali Road community at the South of Timehri, they were regularized and provided with amenities such as street lights and playgrounds long time ago.
Timehri North residents had their homes bulldozed, farms destroyed and endured a constant police presence; they have however remained.