Highway Reroute sues
By JADA LOUTOO Saturday, August 4 2012
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MONTHS after they vowed to take their fight against the Debe to Mon Desir Highway expansion project to the courts, the highway reroute movement has filed a constitutional claim seeking to have the project stopped.
The 2,000-plus page claim was filed just around noon yesterday by attorney Anil Maraj, one of the attorneys representing activist Dr Wayne Kublalsingh and five other members of the movement — Riaz Nigel Karim, Elizabeth Rambharose, Ramkaran Bhagwansingh, Malcolm Mohan and Ameena Mohammed — on behalf of over 600 residents of the Debe, Penal, San Francique, Fyzabad and Mon Desir communities.
Leading the legal team are Ramesh Lawrence Maharaj SC and Fyard Hosein SC other members include Rishi Dass and Vijaya Maharaj. The lobby group is seeking declarations preventing Government from commencing or continuing construction of the Debe to Mon Desir portion of the Point Fortin to San Fernando Highway.
They are also seeking declarations that the actions and decisions of National Security Minister Jack Warner to forcibly remove them from their protest camp in Debe and order its demolition were unlawful.
According to the claim, movement also wants the courts to declare that the acceptance by the Army and Police of Warner’s instructions was illegal and to hold that the minister and the security forces breached the doctrine of the separation of powers and acted contrary to the rule of law.
They are claiming vindicatory damages, aggravated and exemplary damages, together with legal costs. A conservatory order is also being sought to stop the construction of the highway expansion and stay all notices served on the movement under the Land Acquisition Act, pending the hearing and determination of the high court claim.
According to the group, their constitutional rights to life, security, enjoyment of property, protection of the law, freedom of expression and freedom of association have been contravened.
Speaking to the media after the claim was filed in the Registry of the Port-of-Spain High Court, Kublalsingh said the lawsuit also contains a claim for damages for his arrest and detention and the injuries he sustained when he was removed by the police from the protest camp in Debe, on June 27.
Kublalsingh said the group has proposed an alternative system of road development which, he said, would result in saving 300 home; 13 businesses; a temple, a church; a mosque; an orphanage; the agricultural potential of the Oropouche Lagoon; an already viable system of road network; communities and agricultural lands from significantly increased flooding impacts to the area; 179 land holdings from disruption and marginalisation and the peace and stability of 13 well-developed communities.
According to Kublalsingh the lobby group represents all citizens “whether they want the highway or not.” He said there were residents who were partial to the ruling party, and were willing to give up significant acreage of land because they do not want to be viewed as being in defiance of the People’s Partnership regime.
“They feel they do not have a choice,” he said, also pointing out that the majority of the people who are in support of the project had no title to the lands they occupy and will benefit financially if they are removed.
He also expressed concern over the overall cost of the project, which he said amounted to some $14 billion, based on statistics and quotations provided to them. The lobby group, which began a prayer and fast in front of the Hall of Justice on July 4, said they will no longer be there since they have filed their claim and do not wish to appear to be putting any pressure on the courts.
Contained in the voluminous claim are affidavits and several exhibits. They have also produced alleged evidence to show that the Environmental Management Authority (EMA) demanded from Government that it conduct impact assessments of drainage and flooding impacts on the environment in the area identified for the highway expansion. The group claims the EMA’s orders were not carried out.
They also claim the Meteorological Service, on October 5, 2009, expressed serious concerns about flooding, landslips and landslides in the area and indicated that flooding and drainage issues needed proper review and assessment.
One month later, on November 2, 2009, the Water and Sewerage Authority allegedly commented on Government’s Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) report and stated that it lacked any assessment of the negative impacts of drainage, flooding and the wetlands.
Another exhibit included in the claim the concerns expressed by the Director of Drainage in the Drainage Department of the Works and Infrastructure Minister, dated October 7, 2009, and allegedly stated it had to be properly analysed and addressed.
No date has been given for the first hearing of the matter but this is likely to be scheduled in late September in the new law term.