After six days of protests outside the Prime Minister’s Office in St Clair, environmental activist and leader of the Highway Re-route Movement (HRM) Dr Wayne Kublalsingh will, this morning, meet with President Anthony Carmona at President’s House, Port-of-Spain. Kublalsingh made the announcement yesterday, even as his movement continued its protest action outside the OPM against Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar.
He said the group was hoping to raise with Carmona their concerns about the effect of the construction of the Debe to Mon Desir leg of the Point Fortin highway on the environment and the residents. The meeting is scheduled to start at 8.30 am. Kublalsingh said, however, that the group would continue to protest until their issues have been addressed by Persad-Bissessar. “It has been a long process. We started this process in 2005 but the Chinese have a saying, drip by drip by drip …” he said.
He said in addition to his meeting with Carmona, he would be meeting with civic groups and other political leaders to garner support. Yesterday, the group held placards and shouted chants directed at the PM as they demonstrated under the watchful eyes of police officers. “Obey report,” and “Do your duty,” were the instructions shouted by protesters as they marched in circles opposite the office on Gray Street.
After a 21-day hunger strike last year outside the Persad-Bissessar’s office, Kublalsingh’s group was promised that an independent review would be conducted, headed by Independent senator Dr James Armstrong. The result of that review was a report which showed negative effects to the construction of the Debe to Mon Desir section of the Solomon Hochoy Highway extension to Point Fortin, estimated to cost $7.2 billion.
Kublalsingh, in an interview yesterday, said their latest protest was to get Persad-Bissessar to answer two questions. “Firstly, is she going to abide by the findings of the Armstrong report and secondly, is she going to await the court decision with respect to Debe and Mon Desir?” The group’s latest action was sparked after Nidco announced last week that it intended to go ahead with the disputed Debe to Mon Desir leg of the highway despite the fact that the matter was before the court.
Kublalsingh was told by police on Monday that if he were to go with placards and distribute information yesterday he could be arrested. But although the protesters were approached by police yesterday and told that they were violating the law, no arrests were made. “We told them that if we were violating the law, then they were free to carry out their duty,” Kublalsingh told the media of the police’s presence and lack of action against them yesterday.
Leader of the Movement for Social Justice (MSJ) David Abdulah also visited the protest site yesterday and stood “in solidarity” with Kublalsingh. He said he had disagreed with the construction of the highway from the start. Abdulah also said Persad-Bissessar had “mamaguyed” the population with the Armstrong report. “To ignore the findings (of the Armstrong report) is a demonstration of woefully bad governance. To ignore these findings would be tantamount to mamaguying the people,” he said.
He said it seemed the matter of setting up the committee was simply a public relations strategy to get Kublalsingh to end his hunger strike last year. One member of the HRM, Kumar Samlal, stated his intention yesterday to set up a camp at Gopee Trace in Mon Desir from today, to monitor equipment that had been transported to the area.