The steering Committee of the newly formed Wesley Development Organization held its first public awareness meeting for members of the Village. The meeting, which lasted for three hours from 6pm Tuesday 13 October, highlighted a number of areas of concern. The featured speakers were primarily professionals born and/or residing in Wesley and included Dr Griffin Benjamin, David Edwards, specialist in project management, Wilmorth Robin licensed civil engineer in the State of Maryland, USA and Wilbour Phillip former employee of the National Development Corporation and Specialist in environmental Impact assessments who is now employed at Caricom. Robin and Phillip delivered their presentations via the internet. The organizers reported that there were more than 1000 persons logged on via the various streaming platforms.
Attorney at-law Tihani Behanzin also made a presentation outlining the legal process of land acquisition. In his short presentation, Mr Behanzin pointed out to the audience that the process of acquisition of their land and property had already begun and would be completed when the notice of acquisition of the different properties had appeared twice in the official Gazette, even while they continued to discuss the quantum of compensation.
Throughout the meeting the various speakers were at pains to point out that they were not against the construction of the airport per se, but bemoaned the fact that up till then there had been no consultation with the villagers on the airport. A recurring theme was a lack of knowledge as to why the lands that been acquired since 1998 by the Government for airport construction were being abandoned in favour of the new site which will cause a number of unwanted effects. One of these effects, which was mentioned several times, was the expectation that the airport would cut the village in two, separating the eastern portion of the Village from the western portion and effectively eliminating access to the beaches and seashore. Speakers were also concerned that some villagers had lost their agricultural lands in the previous acquisition and now stood to be deprived of their homes in the village.
Mr. Robin explained that the construction of the airport would necessarily involve earth movement on a very large scale, which necessitated proper management to mitigate the ill effects on the health and safety of the population from the dust. Dr Benjamin made it clear that the project would involve the displacement of persons from their homes. According to him, psychological trauma could result if the relocation was not done in a sensitive and rational manner.
The Chair of the meeting, Julien Jeremy, reiterated the consensus of the meeting. The consensus is that the people of Wesley called on the authorities to come to the village to explain the whole process of the construction of the airport and the benefits that the residents can expect. The committee expected that the people of Wesley would get first choice in employment during the construction phase. Hon Fidel Grant, parliamentary representative of the area was present at the meeting, but did not speak. The Chairman specifically asked Hon Grant to take that message back to his cabinet colleagues. The Chairman ended the meeting with a wish that a meeting with the highest political authorities would take place in Wesley in the very near future.