Afra mum on Highway report
By SEAN DOUGLAS Monday, February 18 2013
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The controversial highway route from Golconda to Point Fortin....
NO light could be shed yesterday on the whereabouts of the Report of the Review Committee on the Point Fortin Highway chaired by Independent Senator Dr James Armstrong, when Newsday spoke to Afra Raymond, head of contractors lobby, the Joint Consultative Council (JCC).
Last week saw claims and counter-claims by Works Minister, Emmanuel George, and Highway Reroute Movement leader, Dr Wayne Kublalsingh, about whether the report gives the go-ahead for works or calls for more studies to be done.
Speaking to Newsday, Raymond could not say why the report has not yet been published, could not say when it would be published and would not say if its contents supported the continuation or the halting of construction in the controversial Debe to Mon Desir section.
Asked when the report would be published, he said, “We don’t know yet. We don’t have any statement at this time. Yes, it was supposed to have been published last Friday but we are not able to publish it at this time.”
Why the keep back on the report? “I can’t make any statement at this time,” he said. “The JCC will publish it as soon as we are able to.
“We are not able to do that at the moment. But there are other people...There are versions of it going around the Internet and so on. So people will have to draw their own conclusions, but we will be publishing the official report as soon as we are able to. We have been committed to representing the highest standards in the industry for a long time. It’s 35 years we are here.
We continue to do our work very carefully and when we proceed we proceed on solid ground. That’s what we are doing — we are double- checking things now, okay.”
Doesn’t the JCC’s delay in publishing the report add fuel to the fires of contention between Government and protestors each putting their own spin on the report?
Raymond retorted that it was decisive action by the JCC on November 26, 2012 that brought about this review, during Kublalsingh’s hunger-strike. “That report emanated from a JCC decision in an unprecedented situation in this country —a hunger-strike — on an issue of national concern, together with our civil society partners to take a particular action. That is decisiveness.”
Newsday said the delay is creating a vacuum, being filled by various voices of contention. Raymond retorted, “There was a vacuum in November 2012, into which we stepped, with an unprecedented solution.” He said the JCC is not adding to confusion but that other people are. “We are going to publish that report as soon as we are able to.”
Raymond said he is not making any statement until the report is published.
“You have a point. At this moment in time a variety of voices are arising and obviously the voice people would really like to hear would be our voice as author, we are the ones who brokered the report. I understand that, and we are working very hard to bring the report to the public as soon as possible.”
Raymond said he regards himself as a part of the media. “But there is a responsible role for us (JCC) to play, and playing that role means that at this moment in time we can’t say anything, and I’m asking you to respect that.”
Asked why is there a delay, he replied, “I really can’t say. I can’t make any comment. I’m asking to respect that.”
Isn’t he perturbed by the lack of a deadline to publish the report, no reason for its delay, and the row in the interim?
“We’d have liked to have been able to publish it by now. We are not able to. As soon as we can — it may be some time in the next week, it could be some time in the next 48 hours — we will do that. Certainly I will e-mail all of you and say, ‘this is the official report.’ That will all take place at the same time, so all of the media would be notified.”
He was not able to say if he would hold a media conference or just publish it online, eventually.
Does the report give the highway the “green light” as said by George, or not, as said by Kublalsingh? Raymond replied, “I really can’t say. That’s a hot question. I can’t answer that at this time. When we publish, we’ll come out with a statement. You’ll be able to see everything at that time. I’m sorry to be trying to be cooperative but not be able to answer your questions.
“I’m not hostile at all to the media’s agenda. The public must be informed and that is our commitment inside the JCC, but we just want to make sure we do it in the professional and solid fashion that we have become known for.”