PNM Tobago Council political leader Ancil Dennis has rubbished claims by Secretary of Infrastructure, Quarries and Urban Development Trevor James that the PNM, during its last term, carried out several projects without approval from the Environmental Management authority (EMA).
On May 26, Justice Frank Seepersad granted an ex-parte injunction to the EMA, which complained in an emergency application that it had not granted the requisite approval to start the Shirvan-Store Bay Local Connector Road.
At a virtual hearing on Wednesday, Seepersad said he was not prepared to discharge the injunction at this time, but asked the parties if there was room for compromise. The injunction remains in effect until July 6.
The Infrastructure Division began the project on May 8, saying in 120 days the 2.5-kilometre road would be commissioned for use.
On the Tobago Updates morning show on Thursday, James claimed that for the last ten-15 years, even during the term of the UNC-led People’s Partnership administration, the THA, from 2009-2013, started several projects without EMA approval.
He listed more than five projects, including the Belle Garden Housing Development and Castara Fishing Facility, which he claimed were built without EMA approval.
“The precedent that we met in the THA is that the EMA understood and understands as well that the THA is responsible for managing the environment in Tobago and the THA, through its division and department of environment, can manage those issues themselves,” James said.
But on the Tobago Updates morning show on Friday, Dennis, alluding to James’ comments, said, “Trevor James is tired and gasping for air.”
He said initially, the current executive’s posture was that it did not have to report to any EMA and get approvals.
Dennis recalled the executive even went to the House to bring a motion to try to change the law.
“Anybody with common sense will know that a motion cannot change the law. So that was the stance first – that we don’t have any respect for the EMA.”
He recalled Chief Secretary Farley Augustine had even boasted of having a meeting with the EMA to show the authority the error of its ways.
Dennis added, “Now that the Judiciary has granted an injunction showing them the error of their ways, they are now changing the argument. So it is no longer that the THA does not have to report to the EMA. The judge in the case hinted to that.”
He said the executive believes the previous THA abused the EMA Act and it can do the same.
But Dennis countered, “That is the furthest thing from the truth.”
He identified several PNM projects which he claimed had received EMA approval, which can be accessed on the authority’s website.
“In essence, the previous THA operated in accordance with the laws.”
But he recalled the PNM had disagreed with the EMA on at least two occasions.
“On every other occasion, even some of the projects that Trevor James mentioned, all of those had certificates of environmental clearance from the EMA.”
Dennis described the actions of the THA as “dangerous.
“They went dressed up all nice and dandy in jacket and tie when they got elected and they went and took an oath. A part of that oath is to uphold the Constitution and the law.”
But he believes they have hoodwinked Tobagonians.