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PM broke promise

By Jada Loutoo Thursday, May 8 2014

click on pic to zoom in
No court order: Environmentalist Wayne Kublalsingh, right, stands solemnly at the side of his attorney Ramesh Lawerence Maharaj SC, at the Hall of Jus...
No court order: Environmentalist Wayne Kublalsingh, right, stands solemnly at the side of his attorney Ramesh Lawerence Maharaj SC, at the Hall of Jus...

A CONSERVATORY ORDER to stop work on the Debe to Mon Desir portion of the Point Fortin Highway has not been granted by High Court judge, Justice James Aboud, who has however found that the promises made by the Government and Prime Minister Kamla Persad- Bissessar to undertake a review of the highway construction were not kept.

Aboud was asked by environmental lobbyist Dr Wayne Kublalsingh and the Highway Reroute Movement (HRM) to grant an interim conservatory order to halt works at the Debe to Mon Desir portion of the Point Fortin highway, until their constitutional challenge was determined.

Aboud in his ruling yesterday said he could not grant the conservatory order as there was an almost one year delay by the HRM to seek the order, although one was contemplated when the group filed its lawsuit on August 3, 2012.

He also held that the HRM had made out a case that their constitutional rights had been infringed and has agreed to fast-track a hearing of their substantive claim to this effect.

But the judge was critical of the State’s handling of the HRM’s concerns, saying the representations and promises made to the residents of Debe by the Government were not sincere.

He also viewed the preliminary report done by the highway’s project managers NIDCO to be “superficial,” and said he did not accept it as a review conducted of the highway construction project as there was no consultation with or representations by the residents.

“It was dropped like an ace of spades to send the message that this was the end of this,” he said in his 81 page ruling.

“If a promise is made to consider something then the court expects that the promise is serious,” he said.

“When a person no less than the Prime Minister promises a review she must be expected to understand what that term means and to have said it with sincerity. Instead of dealing with the HRM in a straightforward and consistent manner and telling the HRM that she refused to negotiate, she took a series of steps that are now made out to be half-promises – or no promises at all – to appease, or defuse, or otherwise deal with the activities of the HRM,” he added.

“With respect to the appointment of the Armstrong Committee, the political crisis the Government wished to avoid was the death of Dr Kublalsingh.

“Again, if the Government wished to be straightforward it would have refused to promise that the report would have been considered. If a man chooses to die for a lost cause that is a matter for him, but he should know that it is a lost cause. If a government insists that its executive policy will be carried out, and it is acting lawfully, there is absolutely no public law penalty for its actions. Those are matters for an electorate to judge, not a court. In the end, the promises of a review and a consideration having been made, the claimants were entitled to believe that the process would have been meaningful and that they would have been consulted. Their expectations were therefore legitimate,” Aboud held.

He did find, however, that no member of the Government agreed to abide by the Dr James Armstrong Report, adding that the work done by the Armstrong Committee mirrored the work that he would have to undertake.

Kublalsingh in an immediate reaction after yesterday’s ruling said the group was upset that the conservatory order was not granted, but respected the court’s decision.

He said they will now pursue the matter on the “political limb.”

“The Prime Minister and the Government have betrayed the people... and if the Judiciary cannot handle it or feel insufficient, we will handle it in the streets,” he said.

Kublalsingh also added that if he has to he will embark on an action similar to his hunger strike last year.

He said the people could not handle any more insecurity and warned that if the Government wanted to fight “mano-a-mano” on the streets, they will get it.

“We will remove ourselves to the streets and will now fight this Government until it crumbles and falls,” he emphasised.

In their arguments before the judge, attorneys leading Kublalsingh and the HRM’s case, Ramesh Lawrence Maharaj, SC, and Fyard Hosein, SC, said they had evidence of accelerated works at the site.

They further argued that the Constitution gave the court the power to enforce a stop-work order in order to secure the rights of their clients while their constitutional challenge was before the courts.

In resisting the application, lead counsel for the Attorney General, Senior Counsel Russell Martineau argued that the HRM should not be allowed to make the application since none of the members of the HRM who filed the constitutional claim can argue that their homes were being threatened to be demolished and even point out that many residents have accepted the State’s offer for compensation in the acquisition process.

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