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Re-Route’s court bid fails
An unjustified procedural delay by the Highway Re-route Movement has led to the demise of its bid for an urgent conservatory order stopping construction works at the disputed Debe to Mon Desir segment of the Pt Fortin Highway project. High Court judge James Aboud yesterday ruled that although the group had raised a strong case over its legitimate expectation that the Government would review the project, its failure to apply for the injunction in a reasonable time inhibited its ability to be awarded the interim relief.
His decision left scores of HRM members who were present in court in a state of mixed emotions as some openly wept while others gestured angrily upon exiting the court. HRM’s leader Dr Wayne Kublalsingh told reporters afterwards while his group would abide by the ruling it would continue its protest action. He even hinted at possibly another hunger strike, similar to the one he conducted outside the Office of the Prime Minister in 2012.
In his judgment Aboud said since the lawsuit had been filed by the group and Kublalsingh in August 2012, the State had maintained its position that it was not prepared to agree to stop the continuing work on the highway. “To my mind alarm bells should have ringing in the ears of the HRM and they ought to have known with whom they were dealing and how important it was in a public law case to approach the court expeditiously,” Aboud said.
He also said he considered the macro-economic concerns raised by State attorneys who claimed the stopping of the highway would cost the Government millions of dollars because of third party agreements with contractors which would have to be honoured.
In an 80-page ruling delivered in the Port-of-Spain High Court yesterday afternoon, Aboud said after closely considering the large volume of evidence presented in the case, he came to the view that Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar and her Cabinet colleagues had given the group assurances which amounted to a legitimate expectation. He said the expectation was frustrated when the Government failed to abide by its promises to the group.
“In my judgment I said I regard a promise made from a government minister, especially a prime minister, that there would be a review, to have been said with sincerity,” Aboud said. Aboud said the legitimate expectation point aided in the HRM’s substantive claim that its members’ constitutional rights to life, liberty and enjoyment of property had been infringed. The judge held the Government should have adopted a singular position on the issue instead of making repeated diversions.
“If it was the chosen executive policy to build the highway, the Government ministers, and the Prime Minister especially, should have acted decisively and plainly told the HRM that the decision was not reviewable and that the Government policy would not be changed,” Aboud said. However, he claimed his ruling yesterday might not have any bearing on his future judgment on the substantive issues in the case.