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Former High Court Judge Larry Lalla: Warner acted within the law
Former High Court Judge Larry Lalla has thrown his support behind National Security Minister Jack Warner, saying he acted within the law on Monday when the Highway Re-route Movement camp site at Debe was demolished by army and police officers. In wanting to carry out his function as national security minister, Lalla who is now in private practice, said Warner’s actions could have been considered “misguided” by citizens.
“Mr Warner wanted to hit the ground running and wanted to enter his new portfolio with all guns blazing. In doing so he brought the might of the State to bear on what some might consider to be helpless and unarmed citizens. “However, while it is easy and fashionable for us to condemn a show of State force, a dispassionate examination of the facts would lead one to the conclusion that Mr Warner’s effort, though perhaps misdirected and mishandled as his first official act, is legal and unobjectionable.”
Lalla said law allowed the State very wide powers of compulsory acquisition of private lands. The Land Acquisition Act, he added, allowed the State to acquire private lands which are required for development for some public purpose. Saying that most countries had similar legislation, Lalla said the policy behind the law was to facilitate efficient national infrastructure development by making it very easy for the State to take possession of private lands in the public interest.
“It is virtually unarguable that use of the lands of the objecting residents of the re-route movement will be in the public’s interest. “Road access to the rural parts of our country is necessary for the effective use of our lands and the mobility of our resources. The planned highway will bring new life and vibrancy to the southern parts of the country as the Government seeks to diversify the economy and make former inaccessible lands attractive to industrial planners.”
Lalla said the only issue left to be decided by the State is not “should residents be relocated?” but “how much should they be paid?” “As harsh as it may sound, the law makes no allowance for objecting residents. Any attempt to prevent the law from taking its course and to prevent the State from performing its functions is illegal.
“This point is driven home by the fact that the re-route movement has so far failed and refused to take any steps to enforce their perceived rights.” However yesterday Ramesh Lawrence Maharaj, SC, acting on behalf of the protesters said he will file an injunction next week against the State.
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