ACTION ALERT: Cars vs. Land: Eco-activist Risks Death in Attempt to Halt Road in Trinidad

November 22nd, 2012 - by admin

Trinidad Express & Trinidad Guardian – 2012-11-22 23:13:59

Dr. Wayne Kublalsingh speaks to reporter on the Debe to Mon Desir segment of the highway proposed for South West Trinidad, and the ill effects of such a project…mass flooding, wastage of taxpayers’ money, and wanton destruction of the homes of over 300 homes belonging to honest, hard-working residents in South West Trinidad.

ACTION ALERT: Ask the Honourable Kamla Persad-Bissessar, Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago, to spare Dr. Kublalsingh’s life and halt work on the Debe-Mon Desir Road pending a thorough study of the environmental impacts of the project on the land and local communities.
using the below address:

Write13-15 St Clair Avenue, Port of Spain, Trinidad
Call: (868) 622-1625
The Prime Minister’s Facebook Page:

Kublalsingh Refuses to End Hunger Strike
Renuka Singh / Trinidad Express

(November 22, 2012) — Environmental activist Dr Wayne Kublalsingh has refused to end his hunger strike despite the onset of renal failure yesterday. While he was unable to listen to the Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar’s live broadcast speech at a media luncheon yesterday, he was told the details of it by his supporters. Moments after that information was relayed to him, Kublalsingh would only say “the strike will continue.”

“Did the Prime Minister speak the truth?” he asked the group that gathered close to him.

When they responded with a resounding “no”, he asked “did she give an undertaking to do a review of the Mon Desir to Debe section of the highway?” when again the responded “no”, he said “in that case the hunger strike continues and we will be meeting here tomorrow at nine o’ clock, thank you.” Earlier in the day, Kublalsingh conceded to medical advice and had his blood drawn and tested.

Just hours before the Persad-Bissessars statement, Kublalsingh’s brother, Hayden Kublalsingh, revealed that the blood tests were showing the onset of internal organ failure.

“The analysis shows that there has been significant deterioration in two particular areas and the numbers on the blood test show the ranges that there is a significant threat to the kidneys, there is potential renal failure, and some of the indicators have shown that there is potential risk to the heart, which can be serious,” he said.

The family relayed this information to Kublalsingh and a doctor spoke with him, informing his of all the ramifications of the medical findings, but Kublalsingh refused to leave the strike camp.

“He is aware of the consequences of the report. He remains committed to staying on the hunger strike, he is not swayed by the details of the report and he will continue to be on the hunger strike,” he said.

A visibly weakened Kublalsingh was bathed in water from ice coolers yesterday, and at one point needed help to remove his shirt saying quietly to his supporters that his body was heated. He lay still for most of the day, but was able to walk slowly to a waiting vehicle to make his way home. He is expected to return today for day nine of the hunger strike.

Debe, Fyzabad Residents on Highway
Route Urge Kublalsingh:

Richard Charan / Trinidad Express

(November 22, 2012) — As far as some of the people living in the path of the proposed highway between Debe and Mon Desir are concerned, hunger striker Dr Wayne Kublalsingh might as well give up, go home, and have dinner. What he is doing will amount to nothing, some say.

Still, others believe it makes no sense fighting when you know it’s a losing cause. Others feel it will just hurt more, in the end, if they cling to their homes and watch them being torn down.

Those squatting on State land on former Caroni Ltd sugar fields, say they have no choice but to accept the request to leave and the compensation of money and land elsewhere.

Some see Kublalsingh as a self-centred, disconnected publicity seeker. Others don’t understand his environmental concerns, and his talk about hydrology and social displacement.

The short point for many — there is too much traffic on the often flooded South Trunk Road, Mosquito Creek, and it takes too long to get from here to there. If the highway fixes that, that’s enough justification. Their advice to Kublalsingh: The hurt being caused by this highway route is not worth a life.

But there is also unease along this 9.1-kilometre segment, which is estimated to have a $2.1 billion construction cost, and impact 150 homes. This is a United National Congress (UNC) stronghold, and to fight the majority view that the highway be built is to be branded a traitor.

People fear that what they say could jeopardise the compensation being offered by the National Infrastructure Development Corporation (NIDCO), which is tasked with overseeing the project. And few living in the path of the highway can say exactly when the compensation would come, or when they will have to go, except that it will be sometime next year.

Rebecca Bisram, 27, mother of two, squatting on the bank of the New Cut Channel River at Debe Trace, said she was told last year by then works minister Jack Warner she was entitled to land at Petite Morne, Ste Madeleine, or Monkey Town, near Barrackpore, on which to start over.

“If I have to move, so be it. I don’t mind. Why don’t the people who are supporting Kublalsingh also protest? Why must he do it for them?” she asked.

Kathleen Khan, 29, mother of two, said her family’s choice was limited. “I am for the highway. I live on Caroni land. It belongs to the Government. If I must move, it may be a better place. And why is he sacrificing himself for other people. Why is he doing that to his body? He should go home and eat something,” Khan said.

Nearby, Wendy Ann Smith said she too was prepared for the move. “There is no transport here. I have to leave four hours in advance to get to where I have to go because of the traffic,” she said.

If the highway is built, Michael Gopielal’s home in Debe will one day overlook the highway. “I meet Kublalsingh many times. He frightened the old people, saying that all their land will be taken away because it belongs to Caroni. But people for it. They know now he was just out to make trouble. And we know it is a matter of progress,” Gopielal said.

Ramdeen Rambharose, 67, said, “All you need to be convinced that the highway must be built. It is passing on the (Mosquito) creek when it floods.”

One of the families already compensated is the Ramcharans who was paid $1.1 million for a single-storey home and three acres of agricultural land they owned. A family member said, “We never wanted to move. This is our way of life, minding animal and making garden. But nobody can stop the highway, so it not even worth bothering.”

However, Kublalsingh supporter Davanand Soogrim, whose home, rented apartments and agricultural land he owns at Debe Trace will be swallowed by the highway, said he would not give up. “These officials not even talking compensation. They talking relocation. And I not moving. This whole thing have my poor mother sick. She not eating properly a year now. She looking like Kublalsingh, with all this worries,” he said,

Soogrim added, “For all the people who criticising (Kublalsingh) let them know he is doing this for them, because Indian people don’t stand up for anything. They believe they can’t win the government.”

The excavated land at Monteil Trace, Fyzabad, where Kublalsingh began his hunger strike eight days ago, is now the scene of an urgent highway development project, with bulldozers clearing land in preparation for the Fyzabad Interchange, and secondary roads.

The heavy machines, which moved in the day after the Divali public holiday, have removed the top soil from acres of land, up to the fence lines of homes, some priceless to families whose ancestors settled there more than 100 years ago, to plant cacao and rice.

People spent yesterday watching their fruit trees being felled, and forest being turned into open fields. Some were told yesterday they can expect to be visited by next week with final offers of compensation, so that they could begin packing for the life-changing relocation.

Kamla Makes It Clear: I’ve Kept My Promises
Anna Ramdass / Trinidad Express

(November 22, 2012) — Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar said yesterday she would not give into the demands of hunger striker Dr Wayne Kublalsingh. She said she had done everything possible a caring leader would do and appealed to Kublalsingh’s family to not transfer parental duties to the State. Persad-Bissessar was speaking at the Diplomatic Centre, St Ann’s, yesterday where she hosted a Christmas luncheon for the media.

Kublalsingh yesterday ended Day 8 of his hunger strike against the Debe to Mon Desir section of the Point Fortin Highway. He intends to continue his hunger strike today.

“Wayne’s view is that the project is a bad one and must be stopped at all costs. His demand is not to meet me. So as Prime Minister, what am I expected to do? Simply give in to his demands to protect his life and give up the livelihood and future of hundreds of thousands of others who want the development but choose not to protest in that fashion in favour of it?” asked Persad-Bissessar.

“I am not above meeting with Wayne. I have already done so and would do so again but that is not what is being asked of me. So I have done what any caring leader would do. I have penned a note to his mother in reply to one she sent me. I have sent emissaries to his side. I have placed an ambulance on standby,” she added.

In the face of calls for her to meet Kublalsingh, Persad-Bissessar said she has not done so because Kublalsingh himself said he did not want to meet her. Her promises to Kublalsingh, she said, were honoured as she stressed her Government tried its best to negotiate with and work with the Highway Re-Route Movement but Kublalsingh and his team rejected every effort.

The Prime Minister disclosed the State can face lawsuits from contractors should the project be halted and she again reiterated this would not happen as this development was one which would benefit many generations.

The Prime Minister said in the spirit of Christmas and goodwill she was moved to make mention of the “personal grief” she felt by Kublalsingh’s self-inflicted hunger strike. “Many have asked me to visit him and I wish to clarify this once again. Wayne Kublalsingh insists that he does not wish to see me. His demands are for a technical review committee to evaluate the Solomon Hochoy Extension project and that while this committee is being established that the road work be halted,” said Persad-Bissessar.

The Prime Minister also chided Kublalsingh for his behaviour towards Health Minister Dr Fuad Khan, whom he cursed and chased away when the minister visited him on Tuesday. “His inappropriate and aggressive rejection of the Minister of Health and others whom the government sent in his interest is consistent with this stance. So the failure to meet with him is not of my own making but of Wayne’s refusal,” said Persad-Bissessar.

“The second point of clarification I wish to make is the falsehood that I reneged on a promise made to him. That is untrue. After meeting with Wayne and his group I promised and did suspend the work on the Mon Desir portion of the highway project, pending deliberations and the review of a technical committee which was appointed,” she added.

The Highway Re-Route Movement, she said, walked out of several meetings with the Works Minister and the technical team. Persad-Bissessar explained that when a report was made on the evaluation — that included compromises based upon the group’s views — the results were again rejected by the Movement.

As the State tried to reason with and negotiate with the group, Persad-Bissessar said the State had to bear the burden of costs — but all compromises offered by the technical team were to no avail. “The only result the group wants is the stoppage of the project that links major communities in the South of our island,” she said.

“At this stage we simply could not give into the demands of Wayne Kublalsingh and his group to stop a project that would benefit hundreds of thousands of citizens for generations to come,” said Persad-Bissessar.

The Prime Minister reiterated that Kublalsingh’s health was a concern to her but added that what was also of concern was the development of the nation she led. Kublalsingh, she said, continued to deprive himself of food and water but as Prime Minister she could not deprive generations of citizens of the highway development.

Persad-Bissessar said she would continue to honor and uphold the oath of office, which she took. “I cannot favour any one group or allow fear to control my actions. I therefore make another appeal to Wayne’s dear parents, Ray and Vilma, and his wife and brothers and sisters to take seriously their obligation for the action of their beloved son and not transfer this parental duty to the State,” said Persad-Bissessar.

Activist Can Slip into Coma, Says Top Doctor
Yvonne Webb / Trinidad Guardian

(November 22, 2012) — Dr Anand Chatoorgoon says environmental activist Dr Wayne Kublalsingh is in the danger zone and warned that he could slip into a coma and eventually die, if he continues with his hunger strike. The consultant anaesthesiologist said the body can go without food for one to two weeks, but water is critical to survival.

Kublalsingh’s condition has deteriorated significantly since he embarked on a hunger strike a week ago, to cause the Government to put on hold the Debe to Mon Desir section of the San Fernando to Point Fortin Highway.

He has sworn to neither eat nor drink until Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar keeps her promise to establish a committee to review the proposed construction. The Oxford-educated Kublalsingh has planted himself outside the Prime Minister’s St Clair office, where two ambulances are on standby — one supplied by the Government and the other by his relatives, to take him to hospital in the event his condition worsens.

However, a defiant Kublalsingh has rejected the Government’s offer. He told his mother and members of the Highway Re-route Movement (HRM), who are supporting his cause, that if anything happens to him, he does not want to go to any private facility, but should be taken to the Port-of-Spain General Hospital.

As he did on Monday when Health Minister Dr Fuad Khan visited him, Kublalsingh chased away Legal Affairs Minister Prakash Ramadhar, who stopped by for a visit on Tuesday.

Ramadhar, before becoming a minister of government, was part of the movement before it became HRM, and also joined with Kublalsingh and others in their successful bid to stop the construction of the smelter plant at La Brea. Former attorney general Ramesh Lawrence Maharaj and former minister in the NAR administration Lennox Sankersingh also joined Kublalsingh on Tuesday.

Maharaj said it was unconscionable that Persad-Bissessar would not meet with Kublalsingh and bring about a resolution. Speaking from a medical point of view, Chatoorgoon said the human body can go without food for a week or two, but after one week without water, the effects of dehydration would manifest itself on the various organs of the body, but especially the brain.

“He can become obtunded, which means, his conscious level is not what it normally is. He could become unconscious, and eventually slip into a coma. If untreated, he could eventually die,” Chatoorgoon said. In his capacity as chairman of the Sathya Sai Baba Centre of San Fernando, Chattergoon also appealed to the Prime Minister to meet with Kublalsingh.

“If she does not move quickly, he could become unconscious, in which case it would make no sense,” Chatoorgoon said on Tuesday. He expressed the view that the Prime Minister was being misled and misguided by those around her.

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