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Showdown looms with squatters on CJI Airport lands

A section of the CJIA land that has been cleared by squatters (Public Works Ministry photo)

Police could soon be called in to arrest and charge persons who have begun squatting on lands earmarked for the expansion of the Cheddi Jagan International Airport (CJIA), the Ministry of Public Works said Tuesday.

“The Ministry cannot condone squatting on lands allocated for the expansion of the Cheddi Jagan International Airport (CJIA) – the country’s main port of entry for international travelers.

‘Cease and desist’ signs will be erected in the area shortly. Law enforcement officers will arrest and charge anyone who breaches the order,” according to the ministry responsible for transportation.

Authorities indicated that they were becoming increasingly intolerant of barefaced squatting on the lands, despite repeated warnings by police. “Squatters persist to clear and burn sections of lands to erect structures and farm,” said the ministry.

The Public Works Ministry said that on Thursday, April 9, 2015 CJIA staff and police stumbled upon renewed activity in Timehri North in the vicinity of the Guyana Defence Force (GDF) Ammunition Dump and the Non-Directional Beacon (NDB).

The squatters were cautioned to discontinue their actions.  ““The MPW wonders what has stimulated the resumption of squatting on Airport and Public Lands earmarked for a critical national development project,” the ministry said.

The Ministry and the Airport Authority, since 2008, have held meetings and engaged in one-on-one conversations with squatters on relocation options, the airport expansion and health and safety risks of living in close proximity to the Airport.

The ministry further recalled that efforts have been made to encourage squatters to apply to the Lands and Surveys Commission for suitable alternative lands; however, many still refuse to take up the offer.

Government reiterated that the airport expansion is crucial to Guyana’s development, and the Ministry and CJIA remain committed to the project.

The Public Works Ministry assured that at the same time, helping squatters relocate to suitable areas to ensure their source of income/livelihood is sustained is also top on the Ministry’s list of priorities.

The opposition A Partnership for National Unity + Alliance For Change (APNU+AFC)  has long registered its objection to the CJIA expansion project, saying that there was no proper feasibility study and that there were questions about the soil suitability and transparency.