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A case of ‘highway robbery’

Published: 
Wednesday, October 8, 2014

“Minsh, boy, whatever the crescendo reached by this high mas, you have to bring ah big mas on it next year; even if is a J’Ouvert band, yuh have to put this vision in front the nation; in fact it should be on J’Ouvert Monday when masqueraders could play whole day without the pretty-mas ting getting in the way. 

“The mas that go be extra exciting is the moving design for them truckload after truckload of break-up mountain going into the lagoon: one load for the highway; one load for the party; one load for this one; the other for Mr So-and-So; one for Man Crab; one for de Washer Woman…boy, that go be a mas—Give we a last thing nah, Minsh; we have to see this mas on the street and in black and white to believe it.”

That is my take on Peter Minshall’s YouTube depiction of the sins of the highway construction and suggestions as to who are the major beneficiaries of the hundreds of thousands of loads of mountain material going into fill up swampland and why the Government can’t turn back now, having sold their souls to “pay de devil, jab jab.”

 There must be some logical explanation as to why the Government is intent on not listening to reason, if they feel Dr Kublalsingh and the Highway Re-route Movement are just out to cause trouble for them. Incidentally, the one-minute radio announcements of the HRM succinctly locate reason for the Government’s not paying attention: truckloads of mountain. When there is illogic and arrogant persistence, there has to be a logical explanation somewhere…perhaps this is really “highway robbery,” boy, Minsh.

One of the really disturbing and dishonest elements of the response of Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar and her government to the life-threatening protest by Dr Wayne Kublalsingh/HRM is the attempt by the government to make the protesters out to be completely against the highway; that they are opposed to modernisation, followers of some backward philosophy to stand in the way of the construction of a carriage way for future generations.

This has been done quite deliberately notwithstanding the fact that Dr Kublalsingh and the HRM have made it quite clear that no attempt is being made to rob that part of the deep south of a modern highway. They have said, and illustrated it, that their opposition is to the routing of the Debe-Mon Desir portion of the highway through the swamp and through a couple dozen communities and this is based on social, economic and environmental reasons.  

The Government has also refused to respond to the contention that carrying the highway through the specified swamp area will cost billions of dollars extra, and most recently the revelation that as planned, the highway will tramp on the sacred ground of our ancestors.

Allied to this is the focus of Dr Kublalsingh on the fact that this is a $7 billion project, the highest-costing single project ever pursued here. And that the contract was awarded not by open tendering but through a selective process to a Brazilian firm.  
“No police ent see,” Cypher….

The Government’s attempt to blindside the country by its distortion of the case against the Debe-Mon Desir route is a way of not acknowledging the fact that awarding contracts in such a manner facilitates kickbacks. In sticking to its guns to await the court decision without paying heed to the very trenchant observations/allegations made, the Government sidesteps the hard questions.

So too has the Government not kept its promise to pay attention to the Armstrong report, to which it was a party, and which has said that proper social, economic and environmental surveys were not done and need to be conducted while the Debe to Mon Desir portion is halted.

Typical of the kind of political hide-and-seek involved in the Government’s charade is its hiding behind the outcome of the court case when in fact it had agreed to the Armstrong review of the project. Characteristic too of the political strategy of damning the messenger are the efforts that have been and continue to be made to demonise a man committed to a cause. There are those who have reduced it to a PNM-versus-UNC thing, with Kublalsingh a PNM surrogate; that he hides to eat and drink.

It is not surprising; they cannot comprehend honest action based on integrity and concern for the environment and people. Fr Clyde Harvey is right when he says “truth, transparency and trust” are missing from the soul of the nation.  We cannot trust the politicians who are strangers to the truth; there is no transparency in their dealings with the national community; they are always seeking to conflate and confuse issues while the real reasons behind their actions are hidden in the underbrush.

 So falsely has the Government engaged this matter that even if it wants to extricate itself, it does not know how to: is another review going to be promised?

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