Thursday, December 6, 2012

Kublalsingh Ends Hunger Strike after 21 days

Dr. Kublalsingh, Activist, and Re-route Hunger Striker

After 21 days without food and water, environmental activist Dr Wayne Kublalsingh ended his hunger strike yesterday.

Kublalsingh, who was protesting the Debe to Mon Desir section of the Point Fortin Highway, said he agreed to the terms of reference hammered out after a two-day mediation meeting between the Joint Consultative Council (JCC) and the Government.

Just before 6 p.m., the Kublalsingh family announced the activist had accepted the changes to the initial proposal and had ended the hunger strike.

In a media release, Kublalsingh said the Highway Re-Route Movement read the details of the proposal and found that it contained the relevant particulars they had requested, including the undertaking of a cost-benefit analysis of the proposed Debe to Mon Desir section of the highway, a social impact assessment and a hydrological, terrestrial and marine ecological report of the affected area.

“If I am to put into words how I feel now, it would be that I feel an enormous gratitude to the people of Trinidad and Tobago,” Kublalsingh said in brief telephone interview.

The newly detailed terms of reference that the parties agreed to are not too different from Kublalsingh’s initial proposal and request that was sent to Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar weeks ago.

The one bone of contention remained over whether work would continue on the now contentious segment of the highway during the two months the independent committee would need to undertake its own review.
“No work shall be done on the proposed Debe to Mon Desir highway since this has not been officially handed over to the contractors,” said Kublalsingh.

In an addendum to his statement, he said the National Infrastructure Development Company Ltd (Nidco) told the review committee that “preliminary works will be done on the Fyzabad and Siparia exchanges, but that no compulsory acquisitions will take place and no homes removed during the period of the review”.

“We have spoken to Dr Carson Charles (head of Nidco), asking him to respect the sensitivities of people in the area, and we are satisfied that no home acquisitions would take place in period. They will also confine their works to earth removal and grubbing,” Kublalsingh said.

The independent committee will also accept submissions from the Highway Re-Route Movement and affected residents and take those into consideration as well. This was part of the Kublalsingh’s original proposal but was not included in the initial draft proposal between the Government and JCC after their meeting on Monday.

By 7 p.m. yesterday, the JCC, the body at the centre of the mediation talks between Kublaslsingh and the Government, issued a statement outlining the frame of reference to which Kublalsingh agreed.

Afra Raymond, head of the JCC, said in the release that they regarded the finalisation of this issue as a “solid framework for the transparent ventilation of the matters in dispute”.

“After consultation with the Government and the Highway Re-Route Movement, the JCC is pleased to confirm that it has appointed an independent working group to examine the several matters of concern on the disputed Debe to Mon Desir segment of the Solomon Hochoy Highway to Point Fortin,” he said.
The terms of reference include the appointment of Dr James Armstrong as head of the independent committee that will undertake, inter alia, the three studies as suggested by Kublalsingh, and include persons from various disciplines.

“This is a real advance in the development of our country, so we would like all parties to work in good faith within this process. The Independent Working Group will be inviting oral and written submissions within this exercise. The civil society groups are inviting Dr Kublalsingh to stop his protest action now, so that we can have his submissions and active participation in this important matter,” said Raymond.

Reproduced from  Trinidad express

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