Wednesday, February 21, 2018

AG: The highway will go on

“THE highway will go on,” Attorney General Anand Ramlogan declared yesterday, following a High Court ruling against the Highway Re-Route Movement’s bid to stop part of the San Fernando to Point Fortin highway expansion.

The Movement had sought an injunction to stop the Debe to Mon Desir segment of the highway, which it said would result in the displacement of hundreds of families and infringe on their constitutional right to “life, security, enjoyment of property, to freedom of expression and freedom of association”.

Ramlogan, who called a press conference at his Cabildo Chambers office to comment on the ruling of Justice James Aboud, said any ruling against completion of the State mega-project would have been “disastrous” and would have resulted in significant costs to the Treasury and the taxpayers.

“I am happy with this victory and it has come at the right time,” Ramlogan said, adding that the project is now at a critical juncture.

He said the benefits to people who commute to South Trinidad, including himself, will result in a higher quality of life.

He described as “horrendous” the traffic faced by such commuters daily.

The completed highway will also redound to the benefit of the people of Point Fortin, he said.

Had the court ruled against the State, taxpayers would have had to pay for a highway that they would not be getting, he said, while the Office of the Attorney General and other State departments like the Ministry of Works and Infrastructure (MOWI) would have faced an avalanche of lawsuits from contractors tied to the project.

Ramlogan said the State stands ready to deal with any appeal launched by the HRM in the matter.

“We think that the result in this matter is the correct one by law and therefore defensible,” Ramlogan said.

He said the issue of funding has come up and pursuing this matter has been costly. Ramlogan said while he is not aware of the financiers behind the HRM’s case, he is curious to see where the matter will end up.

Ramlogan had a little advice for HRM leader, activist Dr Wayne Kublalsingh, who has hinted at another fast to mirror the 40-day no-food-and-water protest he held outside the Office of the Prime Minister in St Clair in 2012.

“I think that the period of Lent is over,” he said.

The AG said, however, that Kublalsingh’s concerns have been duly noted and it has also been noted that the fight against the highway has been “a long and arduous struggle for him as a citizen of this country”.

Ramlogan said Kublalsingh is a man for whom the State has respect but “one must understand that you cannot hold back the progress and development of the country to satisfy the concerns of one man”.

“The tail cannot wag the dog,” Ramlogan said, adding that hundreds of thousands are affected by traffic in the Southern part of the country and the debilitating effects can be seen in the reduced quality of family life and productivity.