Last update: 22-Dec-2013 4:10 am
Sunday, December 22, 2013
Trinidad & Tobago Guardian Online
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It won’t hurt PM to talk things out (with CNC3 video)
Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley says he feels Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar should meet with the Highway Re-route Movement again to see if they could talk things out on the disputed Debe to Mon Desir leg of the San Fernando to Point Fortin Highway.Rowley made the statement yesterday after a meeting with environmental activist Dr Wayne Kublalsingh and the HRM at the Opposition’s Office in Port-of-Spain.
His meeting with Kublalsingh came hours after he met with Persad-Bissessar and government MPs to collaborate on finding an urgent solution to the critical crime problem. He presented PNM crime policies to the Government at that meeting, which he described as fruitful. Yesterday’s meeting discussed the PM’s refusal to abide by the Armstrong Report and the movement’s continued protest for work on the controversial leg of the highway to be stopped.
The report was compiled by the Highway Review Committee, an independent team of 19 experts led by Dr James Armstrong, a former Independent Senator. The committee was appointed after Kublalsingh embarked on a hunger strike last year in support of the HRM, which is insisting the Mon Desir to Debe leg of the San Fernando to Point Fortin Highway should not be built for environmental, social and economic reasons.
The Armstrong Report recommended that work on this leg of the highway be halted until studies are done, and Kublalsingh is arguing that the PM should adhere to the recommendations. The PM has said she never gave such an undertaking, and Armstrong himself said he received no such commitment from her. Yesterday, Rowley said the Government had made a commitment to members of the HRM and should meet and talk with them.
“I am not saying the Government should do what Kublalsingh wants, but if you make commitments ...” He said his understanding was that according to the Armstrong Report, there was a commitment to hire experts who would look at the situation and report back to the Government. “I don’t know that is happening, and I don’t think it will hurt the Government to meet and talk about what is happening and see to what extent we can get out of this kind of aggravation,” he said.
Rowley said a government that does not meet with the people is not serving the interests of the people. Asked if he would work with the HRM, he said, “We will ask questions about the cost and what’s happening with the project. Other questions and concerns will also be raised in Parliament as seen fit.”
Describing the project as a bit of disaster that would have a disturbing outcome, Rowley said since no international funding was obtained for it, the Government continues to take funds out of the current account. OAS Construtora, a Brazilian firm, was awarded the contract for the highway project, which is now estimated to cost between $15 billion and $20 billion.
Rowley said the Opposition had filed a question in Parliament asking the Government to say how much money had been spent so far on the project and how much work has been accomplished, and is expecting answers when Parliament reconvenes.
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