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Kublalsingh threatens legal action against Howai
If Finance Minister Larry Howai uses money from the US$550 million raised on the international bond market to finance the Mon Desir to Debe section of the Solomon Hochoy Highway, the Highway Re-route Movement (HRM) will take legal action against him. This was the warning sent by environmental activist and leader of the HRM Dr Wayne Kublalsingh yesterday, as he delivered a letter to Howai at the Eric Williams Financial Complex, Port-of-Spain.
Last month Howai told reporters a bond earned on the international capital market would be used to offset the costs associated with the Point Fortin Highway and payments to the Brazilian contractor OAS Construction. Kublalsingh’s letter said if Howai made the decision to dispense any money for the Debe to Mon Desir highway, Howai, along with Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar and Works Minister Suruj Rambachan would be liable to prosecution for misconduct in public office.
“We have outlined in our letter to him all of the evidence and data which support our position,” Kublalsingh said. His evidence included a lack of competitive bidding in the awarding of the contract for the highway, a flawed tendering process and the Armstrong Report, which made several recommendations for steps to be taken before work began on the highway.
“If the minister decides to take that bond money and fund the Debe to Mon Desir highway, he will be liable to criminal prosecution for misbehaviour in public office,” Kublalsingh said. He said Howai needed to answer whether he was going to use any of the bond money to fund the Debe to Mon Desir highway. “If it is that we get a reply from the minister, we will take our documents and submit it to the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP).”
The documents to be presented to the DPP include the Armstrong Report, footage of recent flooding in Debe and warnings by experts on drainage and the hydrology of the Oropouche Lagoon if the highway was constructed. The Armstrong Report was produced after Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar agreed to review the project after Kublalsingh went on hunger strike in 2012.
Kublalsingh said the group was not seeking a meeting with Howai but wanted to warn him to be careful how he dispensed money on the Debe to Mon Desir section of the highway.