George: Much ado about protest leader
By SEAN DOUGLAS Saturday, June 30 2012
MINISTER of Public Utilities Emmanuel George yesterday claimed Highway Reroute Movement activist, Dr Wayne Kublalsingh, has been given too much credibility by the media in his bid to query to citing of a stretch of highway across Oropouche Lagoon.
George was speaking to Newsday after meeting Nidco head, Dr Carson Charles, to discuss projects such as the San Fernando to Point Fortin Highway, whose Debe to Mon Desir stretch is being challenged by protesters whose camp was destroyed on Wednesday by soldiers under the watch of Minister of National Security, Jack Warner.
“Nidco presented arguments for the current alignment,” related George of his meeting with Charles. He said Nidco had said alternatives to the planned route are more costly. Newsday asked about Kublalsingh’s call for the Ministry or Nidco to publicly present a cost/benefit analysis of the disputed stretch of roadway. George replied, “Why doesn’t Dr Kublalsingh present his cost/benefit analysis?”
Newsday asked if any independent agency could do such a study?
Sidestepping the query, George replied, “There are contractual obligations that the Ministry and Nidco have already entered into. Lands must be handed over to the contractor by a certain time, and that time has already passed.” George dismissed the issues raised by Kublalsingh, saying, “There is nothing that Dr Kublalsingh has brought to the table”.
Could the highway be built around the Oropouche Lagoon as urged by Kublalsingh, instead of across it?
“I don’t know that Dr Kublalsingh is an engineer or an engineer came to him with that idea. Dr Kublalsingh is no engineer,” said George.
“Negotiations are simply going nowhere, but the population is waiting on this report. We are trying to accommodate him (Kublalsingh). There is a silent majority that wants this project to be completed.”
George said the highway would benefit thousands of people, yet is being constrained by just a few dozen persons. Noting Kublalsingh’s high media-profile, George urged the public to look at the other side of the issue as supported by him. He urged that credibility be given to Nidco and the Government’s engineers, plus the Environmental Management Authority (EMA), who all support the project. “We want the country to progress,” said George. He urged the nation to remember the experiences of the past, saying mangrove swamp was successfully cut to build the Beetham Highway and the Foreshore Highway, and that a stretch of the “north-south highway” had been long-delayed by the protests of Guayamare residents, but was eventually built. “Learn from those experiences, we had, or we are doomed to repeat the errors,” he urged.