It was his idea that this little piece of waste land sitting beneath the bow of the airport could house a shack where he could live unmolested.
So he took up residence and built a shack. He planted a garden and waited till the plants matured and sold his garden products at the market and among the Taylors villagers.
While his garden grew he built a cart and set up a haulage business. He took whatever work he got while he built up his shack, fenced it, raised his dogs and cats and looked forward to a settled life under the airport.
The only evidence of his occupation of this little corner of land has been the galvanize fence which he erected to keep out intruders.
He lived like this for thirty years. Then he received a letter from the authorities informing him that the bypass road from the airport to Buckleys would have to pass through his yard and that relocation would be inevitable.
This is when the trouble started. The people who advised him of the relocation also informed him that they offered him alternative land somewhere in the Buckleys area. He found this land fairly acceptable because it seemed to be adequate for him to plant his market garden. Then, according to him, they took back the land which they gave him and decided to build him a one-bedroom house at Buckleys on land which is inadequate for gardening.
Now after a long delay the road is taking shape, the bulldozers are in the area and I believe that they by the time this article is read, Bobo will be “Oat” – out – his house will be razed, his plants will be rooted and he will be out.
I find something fishy about the way the authorities are dealing with Bobo; as if he has no rights. Not because he is Bobo Oat, the loud foul mouth. PAM supporter, Bobo, James Hodge is a citizen of St. Kitts and Nevis and deserved something better than the shabby treatment being dealt to him.
For instance, Mr. James Hodge has the right to a negotiated settlement over his land. Yes his land.
had been living on the land for more than 30 years. This makes him the owner of the land. Nobody ever challenged him over the land. Nobody really cared. The land was useless and only the most down and out would want to live in that corner.
In 30 years, for those who know the law, Bobo has acquired Squatter’s Rights. The land IS his and if the authorities want it to use for a national purpose they should negotiate with him and either buy it from him or give him alternative land of equivalent worth or even better.
Offering a one-bedroom, concrete house in compensation for the loss of his wooden tenement is not good enough. He should have the right to refuse this one bedroom house and to demand a more acceptable location. What he demands could be a far cry from what the authorities think he deserves, so this will call for arbitration and compromises from both sides of the bargain.
I believe the onus is on the authorities to satisfy Mr. Hodge. I believe that if it was somebody else but Bobo Oat the authorities would be willing to compromise. I also believe that if it was somebody else but Bobo Oat, he would get a better deal for being forced to leave his location in the public interest.
This was what happened years ago when the government wanted Frigate Bay in the national interest. The Wigleys who owned it and the Labour government had a big case in court. Big lawyers came down from Trinidad to argue the case. One of them even died working on the case.
Eventually the court settled the matter and the owners were handsomely compensated for the loss of their land.
It should be no different with Bobo except that no big lawyers are required. But the principle of arbitration and proper compensation is just as relevant for Bobo as it was for the Wigleys.
As this story developed over the past few months, Hodge thought he had found the solution to this dilemma.
He saw a piece of land at Taylors which he discovered was unclaimed. It was covered in bush and apparently rejected by everybody who was searching for a house lot. He went to the NHC about it, and from what they told him he thought he could take the initiative to clean up the land if only to show the authorities that he had an alternative to Buckleys.
His lawyer wrote to the authorities pointing out the hardships which he would face having to trudge with his cart daily to and from Buckleys.
Every day for about two weeks, I observed his pre-occupation with cleaning the plot of land. Every night I listened to his dreams of a house on that land and his plans to plant up the land as he had done at the little corner by the airport.
I always listened with interest and fascination at the creativity of his ideas, but I was too apprehensive to offer him any real encouragement. Then one night he confirmed my fears by quietly asking me if I thought it was right for Asim to order stones thrown on the land.
I thought it was the tragic outcome of a dream and I saw the handiwork of stupid, envious Labour supporters who would advise their leaders to prevent another citizen from acquiring a proper piece of land to replace that which the government had taken away.
Bobo Oat may be the victim of this vice. That’s why they think that he must be treated with heavy manners, and his ungainly stand for his rights must be violated because no Labour people goin’ sorry for him.
All Labour people know that Bobo Oat is a loudmouthed supporter of PAM. I don’t think anybody knows why he does not support Labour. Maybe he just does not feel to support Labour.
That is his right under our laws; that why we have elections, to choose the party you like, to reject the one you don’t like.
Because a man does not support the Labour Party and is a loudmouthed supporter of PAM or whichever other party, is no reason to give him less decent treatment than what is decent for any ordinary citizen.
I am quite sure that if Bobo Oats takes the matter to court he would get a better deal. He will get justice.