January 5 marked exactly one month since activist Dr Wayne Kublalsingh ended his 21-day hunger strike. Kublalsingh, the leader of the Highway Re-Route movement, took the drastic action in protest against construction of the Debe to Mon Desir section of the Pt Fortin Highway.
In the last days of his hunger strike, there were serious fears about his health with some believing that he could have died. The UWI lecturer told the T&T Guardian that his health is improving slowly.
“My leg muscles are very weak, and have difficulties carrying my body. This has caused stress and swelling on my knees, ankles and at the bottom of my feet,” he said.
Kublalsingh said he is doing exercises that helping him to gradually build up his leg muscles.
The 54-year-old also dismissed rumours that his strike was really staged to cover up an underlying illness.
In June when the Highway Re-Route camp was demolished by the army and police and Kublalsingh was forcefully arrested, he suffered injuries to the nerves on his wrists from the handcuffs.
“My doctor told me that the trauma caused triggered an old auto-immune syndrome condition. It caused swelling of my wrists, fingers and the joints on my knees and ankles. I was having the condition treated, and had to stop of course, when the hunger strike started,” he said.
“The nerve and wrist injuries are still there. Right now I am working to overcome the vagaries of both the handcuffs and the hunger strike,” he explained.
Asked if he was pleased with the outcome of the hunger strike, Kublalasingh said he was satisfied with the tremendous support he and the Re-Route protestors received from the media, religious bodies, musicians, calypsonians, masmen, university students and lecturers from UWI, and ordinary people.
“I witnessed a population that is ready to stand up and fight for what is right. The public may not agree on everything but during that strike I recognised there is a body of citizens who envision better possibilities for our cosmopolitan republic. This proves there is hope,” said Kublalsingh.
“Most citizens take a long time to get the point – the vision; and will take a little longer to act on behalf of this vision. When our citizens feel comfortable talking development, realising just how much more is possible, and act on behalf of their vision for development, then the outcomes will be assured,” he added.
Kublalsingh says he plans to speak out in the future like he has against various projects in the past like the proposed smelter plant and the highway. He said to maintain sustainable development, Caribbean economies will have to become less reliant on metropolitan economies.
“The mad scramble for scarcer and scarcer markets, by money, manufacture and industrial outputs, and the inability of the state sector to honour its social debts to the people will bring disaster to these economies.”
Kublalsingh said we need to gradually develop new indigenous economies.
“We have to transform our rural architecture: build schools for farming and food, revolutionise our programs and infrastructure of primary schools, farms, local government bureaus, health centres, sports, transport, training in areas such as horticulture, forestry, soil and water preservation.
“The rural sectors hold the key to transformational growth, therefore we should not smash communities and commons but support them.”
He said the PP administration contains elements of rabid hooliganism, disinformation and propaganda and if the people do not stand up, they will regret it.
But will he ever repeat a hunger strike? Kublalsingh says no.
“There is no need to go on a hunger strike again over this issue; the strike has already made its point, fulfilled its promise.
“I went on a hunger strike because I felt the Highway Re-Route Movement had tried everything. Letter after letter, meeting after meeting, action after action and the responses of the authorities were draconian: a refusal to genuinely consider genuine concerns.”
He said the hunger strike was an act of faith. It was putting on the weapon and shield of the spirit to fight a war. Kublalsingh feels the hunger strike also separated the believers from the non-believers, the people of doubt from the people of fearlessness and faith.
As for those who thought of his hunger strike as an act of insanity, Kublalsingh said he welcomed all negative criticisms as they made him stronger.
“I am always happy to receive mocking and scurrilous comments. If there is truth in them I take them into account. If there is no truth, they make me more determined,” said Kublalsingh.
To the question of becoming involved in the political arena, Kublalsingh said he will remain solely involved in the work of activism, for the rest of his life, wanting no position, reward, commendation or remuneration.
“Party politics blinds us from seeing our cosmopolitan character. It mostly supports the status quo, which has to be questioned, not co-operated with.”