HRM: Govt breaking law on highway work

Highway Re-route Movement leader Dr Wayne Kublalsingh speaking Friday at the MSJ headquarters in San Fernando. PHOTO BY CHEQUANA WHEELER - CHEQUANA WHEELER
Highway Re-route Movement leader Dr Wayne Kublalsingh speaking Friday at the MSJ headquarters in San Fernando. PHOTO BY CHEQUANA WHEELER - CHEQUANA WHEELER

Highway Re-route Movement (HRM) leader Dr Wayne Kublalsingh alleged on Friday that the certificate of environmental clearance for the Solomon Hochoy Highway extension project has been breached and work is taking place on the Debe to Mon Desir section.

At a news conference at MSJ headquarters in San Fernando, Kublalsingh called on the Prime Minister to intervene because “Government is breaking the law.” According to Kublalsingh, tractors and bulldozers entered land between Mon Desir and Debe on December 3. He claimed that despite being stopped at two places in the vicinity of Sewlal Trace, operations have continued in the area.

Kublalsingh showed pictures of what he claimed were clearing work in this area. He also claimed this equipment has bulldozed the property of owners who were either part-compensated, not compensated or who live within 500 metres of the work site.

“This is unlawful and malfeasant,” Kublalsingh said. He said under the CEC terms and conditions, final negotiations on all properties and compensation to the owners must be completed before any commencement or demolition work is done. Kublalsingh, who went on hunger strike in November 2012 to protest attempts under the PP to build this section of the highway, recalled the support that Dr Rowley gave the HRM then as opposition leader

Kublalsingh said it was ironic Government would be launching a commission of inquiry into land acquisition for the highway this year, and it was making the same mistakes the PP did. While Government said it would be seeking compulsory land acquisition for the highway extension, Kublalsingh said the HRM will “hold them to task.” He reiterated the HRM had no problem with the extension of the highway from San Fernando to Point Fortin.

Residents Suresh Chaitoo and Feroza Ramjohn supported Kublalsingh’s statements. Chaitoo said no one has discussed compensation for his property with him. Ramjohn was concerned about flooding and damage to wetlands that construction in Mon Desir-Debe could cause.

Works and Transport Minister Rohan Sinanan said he could not comment on this matter, as it is currently before the court.

Environmental Management Authority (EMA) managing director Hayden Romano said the EMA has received several letters from the HRM about the Mon Desir-Debe section of the highway, and “will look into the allegations.”

He explained this would involve talking with the Works and Transport Ministry, Nidco and site visits. At the end of that process, Romano said the EMA would respond appropriately.

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