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Back outside PM’s office
For 21 days last year, environmental activist Dr Wayne Kublalsingh went on a hunger strike to get the attention of the Prime Minister over concerns relating to the Debe to Mon Desir segment of the Solomon Hochoy Highway extension to Point Fortin. Yesterday, he announced that from today he will be setting up camp outside the Office of the Prime Minister, in St Clair, again, but has ruled out further starvation.
With excavators drowning out his press conference in Gandhi Village, Debe yesterday, the Highway Reroute Movement leader said he will camp outside the PM’s office with his banner stating “Abide by the Armstrong Report.”
As he encouraged citizens to join in the protest, he said, the new action will continue until Persad-Bissessar meets with him to discuss several assessments that were recommended by the Dr James Armstrong committee on the construction of the Debe to Mon Desir segment of the $7.5 billion San Fernando to Point Fortin highway.
Armstrong, a former independent senator, was appointed with a team of 19 technical experts in 2012, to review the project and recommended that no further work be undertaken on the highway site until all of the conditions contained in the Certificate of Environmental Clearance have been fulfilled, including the need for all plans specified in the EIA (Environmental Impact Assessment) to be submitted to the Environmental Management Authority, and for approvals to be obtained from the relevant agencies.”
The HRC also suggested that little consideration was given to several effects of the project and recommended that a Social Impact Assessment, Cost Benefit analysis and that new hydrology and hydraulics studies be done. “I want to remind the Prime Minister that from tomorrow morning, I will be in front of her office and I will be sitting there seven hours each day until she talks to me or until she agrees to abide by the Armstrong report.
“We simply cannot have a government coming into power and fleecing, and recklessly attacking the economic welfare of a people without any response. So whatever the court decides on Tuesday, from tomorrow morning, 7 o’clock, I’ll be in front of her office, asking her to abide by the Armstrong report.”
Justice James Aboud is expected to rule on the group’s application for an injunction to stop work in the disputed segment tomorrow, however, Kublalsingh said the Judiciary alone cannot determine the nation’s future. He said whatever ruling Aboud makes, he will abide by it, however, his activism will not stop there.
“Whatever decision the court makes, we will abide by it, but as I said, Justice James Aboud cannot on his own deal with development issues in Trinidad and Tobago. We will certainly be continuing the fight outside of the courts, diplomatically and at the appeal court level, at the Privy Council, meeting with Dr (Keith) Rowley and in street actions of a kind that I have just described to you.
“You cannot leave it up to the judiciary to fight this battle, you cannot leave it up to our honourable lawyers to fight this battle, you have to take to the streets and I will be on the streets in a one-man campaign in front of her office tomorrow, reminding her of the violations here, and reminding her that she has a duty to abide by the Armstrong report.” Asked whether he will eat, Kublalsingh said, “I’ll be eating, I cannot handle a hunger strike. If I go on a hunger strike this time, the consequences will be very severe.”
Hecklers swarm press conference
As seen previously at several demonstrations against the People’s Partnership, pro-government supports gathered at the site and heckled the Highway Reroute Members members as they walked in. One man holding a stick even suggested breaking Kublalsingh’s foot as a method of dealing with his protests. After issuing a warning to members, not engage the hecklers, Kublalsingh summed up his opposition’s action as “they’re being confused by the Government.”
“We are their friends, we are there family, they belong to our community and we will never ever confront them because we know that the enemy is not them, the enemy is bad governance.”
Residents claimed Nidco still owing dollars
With significant work done on the Debe Interchange, highway contractors OAS Construtora have already begun laying material between Namdevco and Gandhi Village, some residents said that the National Infrastructural Development Company has already taken their lands and is yet to pay. Work has split Janey Ramnarine’s property in two and according to her son Vicky Ramnarine, it was done without compensation or ratifying the family’s $1 million claim.
“We are not supporting of the reroute movement, our problem is that they have taken our land and they have not paid us. We have private lands, we have our own deed for our land and you all have not paid us. “People next door, who have squatted on Caroni land got money so squatter have more right than people with private lands then,” Ramnarine said.