The Highway Re-Route Movement, and its leader, Wayne Kublalsingh, took public misbehaviour to a new low last week as they did the equivalent of dumping garbage at the gate of the private residence of Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar. An old tyre lashed to the gate with a strip of red cloth, advertised as a “badge of shame”, could not fail to be recognised as an item of rubbish.
Such interference with private property bore all the marks of a misdemeanour, even if the police wisely chose to overlook the obscenity inherent in the gesture, and not confer undue notoriety on the act. Dr Kublalsingh seems minded to go even further in this regard, by threatening to post his so-called “badge” at the private residences of Finance Minister Larry Howai and Works Minister Surujrattan Rambachan.
The Re-Routers are fully entitled to advocate their cause of changing the Point Fortin Highway’s direction. Equally, their right to free expression covers the mounting of demonstrations and other publicity stunts, so long as they stay within the limits of law and do not set a bad example.
Dr Kublalsingh established his penchant for over-dramatised attention-seeking, with his 2012 public fast. That three-week hunger strike succeeded more in calling concerned attention to his emaciated physical condition than in stirring sympathy for his cause.
Still, he gained the Government concession of an independent review exercise. If the People’s Partnership administration chose not to be deviated from its policy path by the findings, it was also exercising a constitutional right to govern, which is always subject to the judgment of the supreme will of the electorate.
It is the T&T voters who will authoritatively decide whether the present is what the Re-Routers denounce as a “rogue government”. It is for this single-cause pressure group, which opposes the Debe to Mon Desir segment of the highway , to campaign, within acceptable legal and other limits, for the removal of this Government and its replacement by another more sympathetic to their demand.
But the threat to attach garbage to, or the actual defacement, of private residences, even ones occupied by much-maligned public figures, marks the taking of self-righteousness to a dangerous new level. While presuming the right to assign a “badge of misconduct” to officials it opposes, the Re-Route Movement cannot be seen to engage in behaviour consistent with what is essentially an anti-democratic all-or-nothing-at-all attitude.
The Point Fortin Highway extension remains a matter of public policy, subject to democratic debate. The matter, as Dr Kublalsingh notes, is also before the court. To this extent, the no-holds-barred extremism shown by his movement represents disrespect to the process of justice, which cannot be tolerated in any country with proper regard for the rule of law.