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Former Argyle landowner takes CIC forum by surprise

Former Argyle landowner takes CIC forum by surprise

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Just when the public thought that matters pertaining to the acquisition of lands for the Argyle International Airport had all been settled, a former land owner took a forum of business professionals by surprise on Tuesday evening when she presented her case.{{more}}

At a session held by the St. Vincent and the Grenadines Chamber of Industry and Commerce (CIC) on Wednesday to discuss the likely impact of the Argyle International Airport on Vincentian businesses, Edna Clarke, a Vincentian residing in the United Kingdom for 35 years, stood and passionately told the gathering that the International Airport Development Company (IADC) paid her $5 a square foot for her 27,820.66 sq ft of lands at Mt. Pleasant and demanded that she take it or leave it.

“I have the right to receive market value for my land. …I am asking any of you today to sell me a piece of land for $5 a square foot,” said Clarke, with a measure of sarcasm.

She lamented that her parcel of land at Mt. Pleasant as well as those of her siblings were quality lands with direct access to a road. She said her three sisters and two brothers (two sisters with 27,820.66 sq ft, each, and a sister and her two brothers with 42,253.20 sq ft of lands, each) were also paid $5 a sq ft each for their lands.

Clarke said the IADC initially promised to pay her $10 a sq ft for her land, but she was shocked when she received news that only $5 per sq ft was to be paid.

She said that she journeyed from the UK to settle the matter with the IADC, but was unable to see the IADC’s Executive Chairman Dr. Rudy Matthias when she visited his office as he was not there.

Clarke said that she was insulted by a senior employer of the IADC, who went as far as telling her that she could get lands to purchase below the La Soufriere for $5 a sq ft.

“I told him that he has no respect for his parents. I told him he didn’t have manners and needed to smarten his actions, because he’s dealing with the public,” said Clarke.

“He should not have been insulting me that way,” Clarke contended.

She said that she tried to contact Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves and Senator Julian Francis on the matter, but was unsuccessful in reaching them.

A nurse manager by profession, Clarke said that she went as far as writing to His Excellency the Governor General, Sir Frederick Ballantyne, on the issue, but never received a response.

On Wednesday, when SEARCHLIGHT contacted Clarke for more details, she said that she and her siblings intend to file a case against the Government on Thursday, October 21, to receive the market value for their lands.

“My Dad’s land was the best agricultural land in Argyle,” said Clarke.

When asked if she had cashed the cheque she received from the IADC as payment for her land, she said yes, because she was advised by her lawyer to do so. Clarke explained that her lawyer encouraged her to take the money and to seek compensation for her losses in court.

Clarke said prior to the payment for the lands, no one negotiated on their behalf.

“We were not informed. We were not told and nobody communicated with us,” said Clarke.

She told SEARCHLIGHT that she will be leaving the state on Monday for Jamaica, where she will be visiting one of her brothers, who suffered a stroke. She said the stroke came about as a result of the stress that he received over the value of his land.

At Wednesday’s meeting at the CIC, Matthias told Clarke that that forum was not the place to resolve the matter. He then encouraged her to get in touch with him.

On the issue of the senior IADC employee who allegedly insulted Clarke, Matthias said he didn’t know if she had indeed had a conversation with the person in question, because he was not at Wednesday’s meeting to defend himself.

He also explained to Clarke that the lands at Argyle are of different quality and a number of factors determine the value of the lands.

“We did not steal lands,” said Matthias.