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Judge dismisses State’s objection
The Highway Re-route Movement (HRM) has crossed one hurdle in its bid to stop work on the disputed Debe to Mon Desir segment of the Solomon Hochoy Highway extension, with a High Court judge dismissing the State’s objection to the HRM’s urgent injunction application. Justice James Aboud gave his decision yesterday after listening to submissions from the legal teams of both parties on Tuesday.
The parties are expected to deliver their oral arguments for and against the proposed injunction during a hearing carded for tomorrow. The application was filed by the group last week, when the State was due to respond to a similar application for an injunction filed almost four months ago.
The group’s lead attorney, Ramesh Lawrence Maharaj, SC, on Tuesday 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 and the project might reach an advanced stage while the initial application was being determined.
Russell Martineau, SC, who is heading the State’s legal team, objected to the application while questioning the timing of the HRM, as he said work at the site had been going on since the group filed the lawsuit in 2012. “Not one of these claimants can say they need this because their house is being threatened,” Martineau said.
Referring to several incidents in which the group staged protests at the site, including several times when its leader Dr Wayne Kublalsingh was arrested, Martineau accused them of threatening to breach the peace. “These claimants cannot come to a court of equity, because their conduct in blocking the equipment disqualifies them. It is unlawful,” Martineau said.
He also said the group’s application should be disregarded as stopping the construction of the highway is not one of the reliefs the group is seeking in the substantive constitutional motion. “There are thousands and thousands of people who legitimately expect this highway to be built. They have rights too,” Martineau said.
In their substantive lawsuit, which is yet to go on trial before Aboud, the HRM is 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 Kublalsingh outside the office of the Prime Minister, St Clair, recommended that construction work should stop immediately to allow further scientific assessment.