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Public policy versus adult chupidness

By Kwame Nantambu

This article seeks to conduct an Afri-centric analysis of the putative imbroglio that has engulfed the nation to the max. At the outset, it must be stated that the crucial mistake that has been made is that the typical Euro-centric analysis of this issue has become the norm. Indeed, it must be pointed out that the Euro-centric analysis has only focused on the effects of this issue/problem, namely, the Re-Route Movement's tents, clashes with law enforcement officers and a government minister and the life-threatening hunger strike by its leader Dr Wayne Kublalsingh.

The salient reality is that either by accident or design, the vital variable that has been left out is the root cause of the government's public policy decision. In this regard, this is precisely what this Afri-centric analysis will focus on.

Trinbagonians need to clearly understand that this democratically-elected government correctly invoked the Law of Eminent Domain to construct the highway. That's it.

Truth Be Told: The term "eminent domain" came to the fore via the "legal treatise" of Dutch jurist Hugo Grotius in 1625. The Law of Eminent Domain empowers any government "to take private property for public use by a state, municipality or private person or corporation authorised to exercise functions of public character, following the payment of just compensation to the owner of that property."

Furthermore, "the property is taken for public or civic use or in some cases economic development. The most common uses of (private) property taken by eminent domain are for government buildings and other facilities, public utilities, highways and railroads"— emphasis on highways, period.

Trinbagonians need to clearly understand that the international law of eminent domain also "delegates eminent domain power to certain public and private companies (such as NIDCO)... only if its taking will be for a 'public use'".

And "the most common example(s) of a 'public use' is the taking of land (plus houses, businesses, churches, etc) to build or expand a public road or highway"— emphasis on highway.

The bottom line is very simple, namely, the People's Partnership government has broken absolutely no law, period. That's it. Furthermore, the government did not get its authority from the Constitution of the republic of Trinidad and Tobago. The government got its authority from the international law of eminent domain.

Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar was perfectly and legally correct when she stated: "I have a duty to the nation." The fact of the matter is that the law of eminent domain authorises any prime minister to execute public policy decisions in order to protect, defend and maximise the interests of the "public good" — any first year law student knows this.

In this regard, the general public should applaud Prime Minister Kamla Persad- Bissessar for exhibiting maximum "fortified" leadership in her resolute, stern but compassionate "Mother to Mother" letter to Vilma Kublalsingh to the extent that her son's protest will not stop the construction of the highway. This represents leadership at the zenith of responsible government macro economic decision-making process — sans humanite.

Democracy serves to protect the rights of the majority while adult chupidness and narrow-minded selfishness only seek to serve the interests of the minority— power to the people, not an individual; and that's the way it is.

The fact of the matter is that public policy decisions must never be determined and/or compromised by individualistic, simplistic, altruistic emotionalism, sympathy and opportunism publicly displayed by disparate opposition entities.

Public policy decisions must always be formulated and implemented to maximise the "public good." As such, the Prime Minister is perfectly correct not to meet with Dr Kublalsingh. Her government's decisions stand on perfect international law grounds and if she were to meet him then, she would be setting a very dangerous and intractable precedent.

If Dr Kublalsingh as a grown man with a PhD degree chooses to endanger his own life per a hunger strike then the onus is on him alone to explain his decision if and when he meets his creator. That's not the responsibility of the Partnership Government.

The fact of the matter is that the Minister of Communication has already put in the public domain that "These are the Facts" and that the government "has given them (Re-Route Movement activists) the chance to speak" and be heard — what's the problem?

Facts do not lie—human beings do.

More power to the Prime Minister. She has stoically and professionally exemplified the "public use" in our democracy . She must never give in to the puerile attempt by any private citizen to undermine and obfuscate public policy decisions.

In the final analysis, the specifics of the Law of eminent domain legally give the power to the democratically-elected government of Trinidad and Tobago to effectuate this vital, multi-faceted economic development highway construction project. The multiplier effects are tremendous for all citizens in its way. In the long-run, everyone will benefit; do not let short-term myopia spoil our vision.

• Dr Kwame Nantambu is a part-time

lecturer at Cipriani College of Labour and Co-operative Studies.

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