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A PNM supporter at the Returning Officer facility at Glen Road puts on a fire-eating display during nominatin day, yesterday.

Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley kicked off the first official workday of the new year with a wide-ranging interview in Tobago where he addressed a number of issues on the island.

He also endorsed the candidates selected by the PNM Council, who all filed nomination papers yesterday, as well as the move by longstanding PNM member Dr Denise Tsoifatt-Angus who would be running as an independent candidate.

Dr Rowley said service to the party is voluntary and no one can be forced to be a member.

“It would be disappointing if a member decides to go that way but if that is the case we will still wish them well.”

He also addressed a number of projects including the arrival of the new fast ferry— the APT James—which he said is on its way to Tobago from the Canary Islands as well as the Roxborough Hospital, which will be commissioned today.

The Prime Minister said the original construction cost of the facility was $60 million, however, the final completion cost of $80 million deals with the cost of acquiring equipment for the facility.

As it relates to the long-standing Tobago Autonomy Bill, Dr Rowley stressed that there was “no contention” with the bill as it is currently before a Joint Select Committee, which comprises members of the PNM, the UNC and Independent members. He warned however, that the PNM could only act within the confines of parliamentary law, as the passage of the bill requires opposition support.

He also noted that while it is nomination day in both Trinidad and Tobago, “the UNC is not present in Tobago.”

In the wide-ranging interview, Dr Rowley also addressed the impasse between Crown Point residents who are to be relocated to make way for the ANR Robinson International Airport Expansion Project.

He said when projects of this nature occur people usually have a feeling of “why me? ” and there are disagreements about the value of their properties which is subjective. He, however, said each case will be treated with based on the history of the land.

He did mention that the THA has provided subsidised lands at Shirvan and Cove, for the relocation of residents, which is not provisional under the law.

“If you go and look at the law you will not see in the law any requirement for the Government to relocate you once the government acquires your land. What the law requires is to compensate you for what you are loosing what you do with the money, where you go is up to you.”

According to Dr Rowley, the Government’s allocation of $300 million for 52 acres is “nothing to sneeze at” however each case needs to be carefully verified to ensure that the states funds are used for the intended purpose.