In central Trinidad, covered in tangled vines, towering trees and green vegetation as far as the eye can see, one can find the evidence of a once thriving cocoa, coffee and citrus industry.
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Re-route Movement takes State to court
The Highway Re-route Movement embarked has on legal action against the State over its proposed construction of a section of the Point Fortin highway. The activist group, led by environmentalist Dr Wayne Kublalsingh, met yesterday at the doors of the Hall of Justice, Knox Street, Port-of-Spain, where their team of attorneys filed the more than 2,000-page lawsuit.
In the lawsuit, the group is seeking a conservatory order stopping construction of the proposed Debe to Mon Desir segment of the Solomon Hochoy Highway Extension project. The group, which claims to have more than 600 followers, is being represented by six of its members in the lawsuit: Kublalsingh, Riaz Karim, Elizabeth Rambharose, Ramkaran Bhagwansingh, Malcolm Mohan and Ameena Mohammed.
They contend that the Government contravened their constitutional rights to “life, security, enjoyment of property, to freedom of expression and freedom of association.” As a secondary issue, the group is seeking a declaration that the alleged actions of National Security Minister Jack Warner in destroying their Debe protest camp on June 27 was illegal.
They also claim it was unlawful for the Defence Force and police personnel to take instructions from Warner to demolish the camp. “Warner and members of the Defence Force and police officers breached the doctrine of the separation of powers and acted contrary to the rule of law,” the lawsuit said.
After filing the documents in the High Court registry yesterday, Kublalsingh said the group would discontinue its daily silent protest in front of the Hall of Justice. The group moved its protest to the home of T&T Supreme Court after their original campsite was demolished. Through the lawsuit, the group is claiming vindicatory, aggravated and exemplary damages as compensation for the dismantling of its camp.
However, the lawsuit did not quantify the amount of damages being sought but instead left it open for the judge who will preside of the matter to determine. The group is also seeking to have eviction notices that were served on them under the Land Acquisition Act stayed, pending the determination of the matter in the High Court.
“Any decision to remove them (the group) and their protest camp could have only been lawfully made by the Commissioner of State Lands or by an order of the court,” the group’s lawsuit argues. The lawsuit lists the office of the Attorney General, which represents the State in civil lawsuits, as the respondent.
The group, whose legal team is being headed by Senior Counsel Ramesh Lawrence Maharaj and Fyard Hosein, is claiming that the segment of the highway is “destructive and contrary to modern planning approaches to development.” While speaking to reporters yesterday, Kublalsingh, who described his group as a political movement for development, claimed that the construction of that section of the highway would displace more than 300 families, along with the destruction of agricultural land and several long-standing businesses.
Kublalsingh said the group was not opposed to the entire highway project but only to the Debe to Mon Desir segment. “We have produced evidence to show that Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar, Housing Minister Dr Roodal Moonilal and former Works and Infrastructure Minister Warner, from March to June 2012, all made promises to us that the construction would be reviewed,” Kublalsingh and his group claimed.
The group also filed documents from several state agencies which it says prove that the Government was informed of possible flooding and draining issues which would result from the construction of the billion-dollar highway project. The Environmental Management Authority (EMA), the Meteorological Service, Water and Sewerage Authority (WASA), all expressed concerns about the draining problems, the group claims.
The group’s legal team also includes attorneys Rishi Dass, Vijaya Maharaj and Anil Maraj. The case will be heard on a date to be fixed.