KEVON [email protected]
Despite being charged with obstructing work on the Solomon Hochoy Highway Extension to Point Fortin (SHHEPF) project, Highway Reroute Movement (HRM) leader Dr Wayne Kublalsingh says the group will apply for an injunction to suspend work in Mon Desir .
An a media conference at Camp Reroute along the Right of Way off Roots Avenue Branch 1, Kublalsingh claimed the Government is violating the Land Acquisition Act as its contractor, General Earth Movers Ltd already began clearing lands which still belongs to residents in the area. He said the group hired a Senior Counsel who should apply to the high court this week. Camp Reroute currently blocks part of the Right of Way along the contentious leg Debe-Mon Desir segment of the project. Kublalsingh said the government took lands from the Priam, Creese, Chaitoo and Ramjohn families’ without any compensation. He asked journalists to question Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley on whether he compensated any landowners between Debe and Mon Desir for their lands.“We are also going to file an injunction against Works. We are going to say basically that the government is breaching the Land Acquisition Act and the EMA Act. We have a matter before Justice James Aboud, who is supposed to rule on this matter since January last year and he has not ruled. The thing is in court. In the meantime, we are going to try to hold out here as long as possible,” Kublalsingh said.
Landowner and HRM member Suresh Chaitoo said the State already cleared the front of his property. Chaitoo said his protest was not only about compensation, but the government’s disregard of the Report of the Independent Review Committee of the Debe-Mon Desir segment of the San Fernando to Point Fortin Highway. The Committee found there were significant shortcomings which warranted further interrogation. It recommended that if the government decided to proceed with the construction of the Debe-Mon Desir segment, the drawbacks resulting from the inadequacies of proper assessment of the likely impacts on the human and natural environment must first be determined and resolved.Chaitoo said National Infrastructural Development Company (NIDCO), the project manager, failed to contact him regarding the acquisition of his land. He said the previous arrangements between himself and NIDCO expired.Although the HRM lost its legal challenge to stop the resumption of work along the Debe-Mon Desir segment back in April, Kublalsingh said they are appealing the ruling, even if it has to reach the Privy Council. He said, “With all respect to the Prime Minister, with all respect to his PNM colleagues, he has been very treacherous to us. He is following in the footsteps of the last government. He is doing it like Moonilal. He is doing it like Warner. I expected him to be a more principled man. “I would have expected him to follow the science and principle and stop this undertaking, but he has done no such thing. Therefore, he will be defeated. He may not be defeated this election, but he will be defeated very shortly because you do not do those kinds of things. He is acting against the people’s lands, and communities of Trinidad & Tobago in favour of the contractocracy.” Kublalsingh said the Government’s actions pauperised the HRM as they spent costly legal fees over the years. Now he and members have to convert assets to continue the battle to save the not only the communities but the ecology of the area. He said they would not relent in stopping the government from destroying the remaining forest in the area.
Last May, Fyzabad police arrested Kublalsingh after he allegedly attempted to stop excavators from bulldozing a forested area, which he said was on private lands. The police granted him $500 own bail on an obstruction charge. He later went to the Siparia Police Station where he appeared via video link before Senior Magistrate Margaret Alert. He pleaded not guilty to a charge of obstruction of the passageway.