PORT OF SPAIN –– Environment lobbyist Dr Wayne Kublalsingh and the Highway Re-Route Movement (HRM) have suffered yet another defeat in their challenge of the Debe to Mon Desir segment of the Point Fortin Highway, as three appellate judges have failed to grant an interim order to stop work at the contentious site.
Kublalsingh and the HRM sought to have the appellate court “preserve the status quo” until the hearing and determination of their challenge to the London-based Judicial Committee of the Privy Council.
The environmentalist, who has embarked on a second hunger strike to protest government’s failure to abide by the independent James Armstrong review of the Debe to Mon Desir section of the highway, and the HRM are challenging a majority ruling of the appeal court that held that Justice James Aboud was correct when he refused to grant a conservatory order to stop works at the contentious site.
Justices of Appeal Rajendra Narine and Prakash Moosai in August ruled against Kublalsingh and the HRM in a majority ruling, while Justice of Appeal Gregory Smith dissented.
In the majority ruling, Justice of Appeal Narine, who wrote the judgment, held that the trial judge could not be faulted in deciding not to grant the conservatory order.
Kublalsingh and the HRM sought conditional leave to appeal to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council. In a hearing yesterday, Justices of Appeal Peter Jamadar, Maureen Rajnauth-Lee and Prakash Moosai agreed with the State, and denied the HRM’s application.
Deborah Peake, SC, who argued for the state, submitted that there was no “status quo” at this point to preserve since there was no evidence that any of the claimants would be adversely affected by the continuing works at the highway. She also pointed out that there was no separate contract for the Debe to Mon Desir segment of the highway as the contract awarded to Brazilian firm OAS, was to build a composite highway and there were overriding obligations to the main contractor and the multitude of subcontractors.
“There is no risk at this time that anyone’s property is being destroyed,” Peake said, adding that the application for the interim order was premature.
The state did not resist Kublalsingh’s application for conditional leave to appeal to the Privy Council. Lead attorney for Kublalsingh and the HRM, Ramesh Maharaj, SC, argued that when faced with a constitutional motion, the court must be concerned with preserving the status quo and treat the motion with urgency.
He said the continued construction of the Debe to Mon Desir segment of the highway would affect his clients’ rights to enjoyment of property, and there was the danger that by the time their constitutional challenge was heard, that portion of the highway would have been built.
Senior Counsel Russell Martineau and Deborah Peake led Kelvin Ramkissoon, Gerald Ramdeen, Shastri Roberts for the attorney general while Senior Counsel Fyard Hosein and Ramesh Lawrence Maharaj led Rishi Dass and Anil Maraj for Kublalsingh and the HRM.