Last update: 19-Dec-2013 7:24 am
Thursday, December 19, 2013
Trinidad & Tobago Guardian Online
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Highway injunction to be heard October 18
The High Court will next month hear an application by members of the Highway Re-route Movement to stop work on the disputed Debe to Mon Desir segment of the Solomon Hochoy Highway extension. The matter came up for hearing before Justice James Aboud, at the Hall of Justice, Port-of-Spain, but was deferred to October 18 to allow the organisation and the State more time to submit documents to the court. A related lawsuit over the construction of the $7 billion project is scheduled to be heard before the same judge on October 28.
In an interview after the case was adjourned, the group’s leader environmentalist Dr Wayne Kublalsingh said they would continue with its protest action outside the Prime Minister’s office, in St Clair until the matters were decided before the court. “We will continue our vigil outside the Office of the Prime Minister, because this matter is just not about courts deciding things. Justice Aboud cannot decide on this matter ultimately. This is a matter between the people and the Government,” Kublalsingh said.
In its application, which was filed on Wednesday, the group is seeking a conservatory order stopping construction of the controversial section of the highway. The group is also seeking to amend its substantive case to tender fresh evidence, including a report from a technical committee which examined the highway project.
Delivering preliminary submissions yesterday, Russell Martineau, SC, who is heading the State’s legal team, questioned the timing of the application, saying the group was given several opportunities, during hearings of the substantive case last year, to apply for the injunction, but refused to do so. In response, the group’s attorney Senior Counsel Fyard Hosein said that his clients had not sought the injunction before because construction work at Debe to Mon Desir did not start until Tuesday.
“There was no need for it before, but the dynamics has now changed,” Hosein said. He claimed when a report on the highway was commissioned last year, his clients were given an undertaking that construction work would be put on hold until the determination of the substantive lawsuit. The report, which was prepared by a team of 17 professionals led by former Independent senator Dr James Armstrong, said construction work should be stopped immediately to allow further scientific assessments to take place.
Hosein said the Government paid almost $700,000 for the report and his clients were given a legitimate expectation that the Government would abide by its findings. Martineau disputed this point. “There was no promise. That is just ole talk,” he said. He said work on the highway had begun since last year and never stopped. “Work is going on, so let it go on,” he said.
Martineau said there were major macro-economic concerns relating to the highway’s construction and the injunction would cost the State significantly because of third-party rights of contractors. The State is also being represented Senior Counsel Deborah Peake and attorneys Kelvin Ramkisson, Gerald Ramdeen and Shastri Roberts. Ramesh Lawrence Maharaj, SC, and Rishi Dass are part of the group’s legal team.
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