Determined to stop Government from ploughing down private lands in the Oropouche Basin, environmental activist Dr Wayne Kublalsingh placed himself in front of excavators and tractors during a face-off with workers yesterday.
Kublalsingh had called a press conference at the Sewlal Trace, Fyzabad, construction site but became incensed when three excavators continued to plough down lands belonging to residents who had never received a cent of compensation.
“All work going on here is illegal. The government is breaking the law. Dr Keith Rowley took a Cabinet decision to continue works and they are breaking the law,” he said as he walked in front the tractors.
“The Constitution of Trinidad and Tobago says you may not deprive people of their legal property unless you do so legally. They have contravened the Constitution.
Kublalsingh said the certificate of the environmental clearance granted by the EMA stated that no work should be done on the lands unless residents are fully compensated and everyone within 500 metres of the worksite is fully compensated for their homes, agricultural lands and residential lands.
“The Land Acquisition Act says you may not make agreements by word of mouth. Everything must be down on paper but this is not happening and some agreements are through word of mouth,” he said.
He also noted that the Armstrong Report warned of malfeasance on the project.
“That report says no work should continue unless certain studies were done. There is also a breach of the Judicial Review Act. Minister Rohan Sinanan said no decision will be taken to build the highway unless they first consult with us. Mr Sinanan is breaching our legitimate expectations,” Kublalsingh said.
He asked: “Why is Dr Rowley sending Minister Sinanan to front for him? I want Dr Rowley to chat with me, meet with me, quarrel with me.”
For 12 years, Kublalsingh opposed three governments on the decision to build the highway across the Oropouche Basin. He said the nine-mile embankment will cause devastating floods.
Sinanan had initially said no new work is ongoing on the Debe to Mon Desir leg of the highway but in a Guardian Media exclusive last week, it was found that a contractor had been given a contract in December to continue excavation works at the site.
Several residents said they had not received any compensation for their lands.