Leader of the Highway Reroute Movement (HRM) Dr Wayne Kublalsingh has accused the state of bullying citizens to get its way, and the use of the law to benefit them only when necessary.
He was speaking during a small protest on Sunday morning at the construction site in Fyzabad which has been earmarked for the Fyzabad to Mon Desir section of the Solomon Hochoy Highway extension to Point Fortin.
Kublalsingh said the HRM plans to take further legal action against the government and will file an application for an injunction to stop construction because the State has breached various laws and citizens’ constitutional privileges.
He said it is hoped the injunctive relief will prevent the National Infrastructure Development Company (NIDCO) from construction of all highway work between Debe to Mon Desir, and to restrain NIDCO and its officers and agents from entering any property there for the purpose of construction, unless they comply with the terms and conditions outlined in the certificate of environmental clearance (CEC), the Environmental Management Act, the Land Acquisition Act and the Constitution.
Kublalsingh said, “The State’s plan seems to be to break every law in the book and then say like a bad John ‘Take us to court.’ And when they go to court, they plead public interest.
“But I would like to very politely advise the judiciary and citizens that public interest is not a cloistered virtue. The HRM represents the public interest, the Armstrong committee also represented the public interest.”
The 2013 committee, led by former independent senator Dr James Armstrong, did an independent technical study of the Debe to Mon Desir segment of the extension to the Sir Solomon Hochoy Highway. It was commissioned after uproar over the construction and awarding of contracts for the highway’s construction.
Kublalsingh added that the Armstrong study indicated the construction of the highway be halted, yet the state refused to consider the study and recommendations.
“They did a survey and presented the report in 2013, after my hunger strike, and they said very clearly none of these works should continue because the CEC is flawed, and a number of studies need to be done, which they (the State) refused to do.
“They (State) are breaching every law in the book and they take things to court and then the technocrats and the bureaucrats plead public interest.”
He said hundreds of families were directly affected by the construction, in which the State has failed to provide adequate compensation. He said trees, crops, gardens, lagoons, and river courses between Mon Desir to Fyzabad, which were on private properties, have been destroyed.
“They cannot compensate anybody. They have given the contractor $162 million to build a two-kilometre road between Fyzabad and Mon Desir, but they are not compensating the people.”
The HRM has called for the Prime Minister's intervention and noted that attempts to reach him for a meeting were unsuccessful.
They also added that no help was forthcoming from their MP Dr Lackram Bodoe.
When Newsday contacted Bodoe on Sunday morning, he said there was no formal communication with the group, but if such is done he was willing to discuss the matter.
“I have had discussions otherwise with the Minister of Works and Transport who indicated that the government is bound by legal agreements to continue the work.”
Residents in the immediate surrounding of the construction site said they have had to deal with trespassing on their private properties without compensation; dust which affects mostly children, the elderly and those with respiratory ailments; noise; cracked walls from the vibrating machines; psychological distress and intimidation caused by work done so close to the properties to inject fear and compliance.