PORT OF SPAIN –– Leader of the Highway Re-Route Movement, Dr Wayne Kublalsingh, says Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar is wrong in her handling of the disputed Debe to Mon Desir leg of the Point Fortin Highway. He also dismissed claims by Persad-Bissessar that he was holding the nation to ransom, saying she was instead being held to ransom by “certain people” who have been “obstructing her heart, kindness and integrity to do the right thing”.
Kublalsingh, who spoke to members of the media at his camp St Clair, outside the Office of the Prime Minister, responded to the letter sent by Persad-Bissessar. Press officer for the OPM, Francis Joseph, delivered the letter to Kublalsingh around 10 a.m. yesterday. The letter said Kublalsingh was on a self-destructive path and that the prime minister was compelled to listen to the views of those who endured daily traffic.
“Corruption inflicts the public servant, a political system, a judiciary, even some arms of the media. It is like a radioactive force and that’s a huge issue and therefore we need to have a large outlook. The question of process is also a large issue and the opposite of process is corruption. We need reconcilation and we need dialogue. I think the prime minister needs to be open to those kind of approaches,” Kublalsingh said.
The movement, he said, was not about stopping the highway but preserving the lagoon by re-routing it. Kublalsingh said Persad-Bissessar, in her letter, did not speak about her promise of a review of the highway or address his initial first hunger strike some two years ago which resulted in the James Armstrong Report.
He added: “I want to remind the prime minister that at the very beginning of this project she said that she would micromanage it so that there would be no corruption.
“The then question is why is there no particular tendering process for this particular highway? Why is it that minister Dookeran allowed this to pass over his desk? We are saying, Madam Prime Minister, sit with us and the technocrats, and I think this would be a very important step in the road to independence.”
Regarding his health, Kublalsingh said he felt fine and was spending a lot of time in his wife’s garden.
“I’ve been spending some time with the plants and I have been doing deep breathing in that garden. And I have had a salt bath in her bath. It was a privilege to bathe in her bath yesterday [Wednesday] afternoon. So I’m doing pretty well. I don’t feel any negative impacts so far,” Kublalsingh added.
Unlike his previous hunger strike which lasted 21 days Kublalsingh said he did not think he would “reach that long”.
“I don’t think I could even reach five or six days; so I am willing to stay out here as long as it is humanly possible and until my body gives up of which I would have no control of the matter,” he said.
Kublalsingh’s sister Judy, who is an attorney, said the pending decision by the Privy Council over an injunction stopping the segment of the highway was one element of several other actions which had been taken. The High Court and the Court of Appeal had refused to stop the construction. “You have had street action, you have had diplomatic action and there has been a tremendous amount of that and sacrifice and prayer.
“As it is there is no order of the court which prevents Wayne or any member of the Highway Re-Route Movement from engaging in any parallel action outside of the court. The Prime Minister in her response that this matter is before the court and therefore her hands are tied . . . any emminent senior counsel and any first-year law student knows that is absolute nonsense . . . . That statement is disingenuous,” Judy said.
She said that at any point in time the state can give any undertaking before a court and any sitting judge would be happy to entertain that order at which the parties may arrive. On her brother’s decision to go on anther strike, Judy said no family members wanted another strike, as many of them were hurt by that decision.
She added: “I feel especially hurt that in this century we have an individual who has to mount an individual protest of this magnitude to compel government to do the right thing and obey the findings of science.
“I think Wayne as not embarked upon this easily at all. He has made this decision very carefully and he hopes to come out of this with his health and life intact, and I am going to have faith for that. He is spiritually strong.”