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Faced with repeated delays in its lawsuit and the State’s apparent intensification of construction works, the Highway Re-route Movement (HRM) yesterday applied for an urgent interim injunction to stop work on the disputed Debe to Mon Desir segment of the Solomon Hochoy Highway extension. The group’s attorneys made the move at a hearing before Justice James Aboud in the Port-of-Spain High Court, in which the State was due to respond to a similar application for an injunction filed almost four months ago.
That application has been blighted by a series of procedural delays, including the State’s application last November for Aboud’s recusal, which he eventually dismissed last month. In making the application, the group’s lead attorney, Ramesh Lawrence Maharaj, SC, said his clients could not wait for the first application to be determined, as the State had ramped up construction at the site since the beginning of this month.
“This is a calculated attempt to destroy the subject matter of this case. The court cannot condone this destruction,” Maharaj said. He said if the case were to proceed at its current pace, the construction at the site would reach an advanced stage before the first application was determined, leaving the reliefs being sought by his clients useless. Senior Counsel Russell Martineau, who is leading the State’s legal team, opposed the HRM’s latest legal challenge, describing it as possible abuse of process.
“I’m not saying you (Aboud) cannot deal with this application. I would say the court should not,” Martineau said. Aboud ordered that both parties should file their submissions on the issue over the weekend and granted the HRM an expedited hearing next Tuesday morning. He described the case as the “most important in a decade” and said it deserved an urgent hearing.
In their substantive constitutional motion, which is yet to go on trial before Aboud, the members of the group are contending that the Government breached its constitutional rights by building the controversial section of the highway without proper consultation of the residents. It is also challenging the destruction of its Debe camp by a group of soldiers in June 2012 under the alleged instructions of then national security minister Jack Warner .
It claims it had a legitimate expectation that the Government would abide by a 700-page technical report which was prepared by a team of 17 professionals led by former Independent senator Dr James Armstrong. The report which was produced following a 21-day hunger strike by the group’s leader, environmentalist Dr Wayne Kublalsingh, outside the Prime Minister’s Office, recommended that construction work should stop immediately to allow further scientific assessment.