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Badge of shame for PM

...from Highway Re-route Movement
Wednesday, January 29, 2014
Soldiers assigned to the Prime Minister’s home in Philippine remove a tyre from the main gate after it was placed there by members of the Highway Re-route Movement during protest action yesterday. PHOTO: RISHI RAGOONATH

Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar has been awarded a “badge of shame” by members of the Highway Re-route Movement (HRM), which yesterday hung a tyre with a red piece of cloth on the front gate of her home at Philippine. About 20 protesters marched to Persad-Bissessar’s home on the SS Erin Road to present her with the “symbolic award”, although she is attending a Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) summit in Havana, Cuba. 



Leading the protesters, HRM leader Dr Wayne Kublalsingh said the PM was guilty of misconduct in public office by not adhering to the Armstrong Report which called for further studies to be done on the Oropouche Lagoon. The action came three days after Brazilian contractor Construtora OAS moved onto the disputed Debe to Mon Desir leg of the $7.2 billion San Fernando to Point Fortin Highway. 



Kublalsingh also called on members of the public to present “badges of shame” if they also felt Government was guilty of misconduct in public office. He said: “We have moved into a different phase of the struggle. We have moved into a phase of tyre diplomacy. If it is tyre they want, we’ll give them tyre. “We are not going to burn tyres and we are not going to burn down machines. We are using peaceful, diplomatic and symbolic action and any time you misbehave in public office, we are going to give you a tyre.


“I appeal to the people, if you feel your Government is misbehaving in public office, send them a tyre on their gates, outside their yards or outside their compounds.” The group said next in line for the tyre awards were Works and Infrastructure Minister Dr Surujrattan Rambachan, Finance Minister Larry Howai and Nidco president Dr Carson Charles. Although Persad-Bissessar’s home is heavily guarded, no security personnel came out to stop the group from putting the tyre on the gate and the police did not turn up at the house. 


Up to 30 minutes after the protesters left, soldiers were seen walking around their station making phone calls. Eventually they came to the gate and removed the tyre, which rolled down the driveway before crashing into a plant pot. The gathering attracted spectators, with one onlooker asking: “They working obeah?” on seeing the red cloth. One driver got out of his car to chase the protesters only to be mocked and laughed at.


Before the demonstration, the protesters spent the morning in Gandhi Village where excavators had graded close to a kilometre of land into the area. Kublalsingh said despite the movement’s case being heard in court in Port-of-Spain, Government was continuing the work. He accused the State of delaying the start of the court matter by continually asking the presiding judge, James Aboud, to recuse himself. Aboud ruled two weeks ago that he would not do so. 


The State had made an application for him to step aside from the case on the basis of apparent bias after his brother, environmentalist Gary Aboud, was arrested at the Port-of-Spain waterfront during protests by the fishing community



Griffith calls for probe

In a statement last night, executive director of the National Operations Centre (NOC), Garvin Heerah, said Minister of National Security Gary Griffith had called for an immediate report on the incident, noting it was a breach of security at the PM’s residence. “This incident has ignited a cause for concern. The Minister of National Security has demanded an official report immediately to identify the reasons behind this breach, who would be held responsible and to ensure that there would not be a repeat of this breach.”


He, however, commended the police, under Insp Debulet, for their quick response to the scene and professional approach in dealing with the matter. “The NOC was in constant monitoring and coordination of the response via the TTPS liasion attached at the NOC. The Minister has also directed a thorough investigation be carried out to ascertain who might have been involved and responsible for this incident,” Heerah said.


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