By JADA LOUTOO Saturday, October 19 2013
WORK will continue on the Debe to Mon Desir section of the Point Fortin to San Fernando Highway after a High Court judge, hearing an application for a conservatory order to effectively halt work, adjourned the case to November.
Yesterday, Fyard Hosein SC, one of the lead attorneys for the Highway Re-route Movement (HRM) began submissions seeking to convince Justice James Aboud why construction of this contentious portion of the highway should be stopped, pending the hearing and determination of his client’s constitutional motion.
Hearings for the conservatory order will continue on November 8 and 13. At yesterday’s sitting, several notable figures including Fr Clyde Harvey, PoS Mayor Louis Lee Sing and retired mas man Peter Minshall sat in the public gallery, listening to submissions.
Hosein argued that the State, having promised that a review would be done on this portion of the highway, must give reasons why it intended not to abide by recommendations of the report.
He pointed out there was participation by the State in the consultation with the Joint Consultative Council of the Construction Industry and other civil society groups which led to the appointment of Dr James Armstrong to conduct a review of the construction.
He said the HRM’s expectation was that before the State rejected the Armstrong Report and its recommendations, it should have followed procedure and met with affected residents. “Give us a chance (to be heard),” Hosein said, admitting there was some dispute as to whether the State promised to abide by the Armstrong Report and its recommendations or whether it agreed to the Terms of Reference drawn up between it and the JCC prior to Dr Armstrong being given his mandate.
But, he added, “All the hallmarks of good administration and fairness are that you adhere to the recommendations of the technical report. The State is not lawless. It must observe the law like everyone else. You cannot build a highway without thinking about the people.”
“Once you embark on a process, it must be fair,” he added. Hosein submitted that for the Government to consider the Armstrong Report, it must do so properly.
“It should not be a sham, it must be genuine,” he said, also noting that it appeared that the recommendations and findings contained in the report were simply disregarded.
Hosein said Government paid almost $700,000 for the report and his clients were given a legitimate expectation that Government would abide by its findings.
He also took issue with what he describes as attempts by the State to label HRM lead activist Wayne Kublalsingh an “anarchist bent on misbehaviour” by referring to his arrests at the highway construction site in an affidavit filed by the defence. Hosein asked the judge to disregard the affidavit, saying his clients were entitled by law to protest and assemble to voice concerns.
Hosein, Ramesh Lawrence Maharaj SC, Anil Maraj and Vijaya Maharaj are representing the Re-Route Movement, while senior counsel Russell Martineau and Debra Peake along with Gerald Ramdeen, Kelvin Ramkissoon and Shastri Roberts, are representing the State.
In its application, the HRM is seeking a conservatory order stopping construction of the controversial section of the highway. The group is also seeking to amend its substantive case to tender fresh evidence, including the Armstrong report which examined the highway project.
Before the end of yesterday’s hearing, Martineau in response to a question by the judge, said work has been taking place at the site of the controversial portion of the highway.
He said claims for millions of dollars have been coming in from contractors on the site and emphasised that the State has a responsibility to the country, as a whole, to continue with the project.
The HRM in its constitutional claim being heard by Justice Aboud is claiming vindicatory damages, aggravated and exemplary damages, together with legal costs. A conservatory order is also being sought to stop construction of the highway expansion and stay all notices served on the movement under the Land Acquisition Act, pending hearing and determination of the case.
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.