MOTHER'S SUPPORT: Highway Re-Route Movement leader Dr Wayne Kublalsingh hugs his mother, Vilma, during the 16th day of his hunger strike yesterday outside The Office of the Prime Minister on Gray Street, St Clair. —Photo: STEPHEN DOOBAY

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AN URGENT MATTER

Works Minister calls for Monday meeting on proposal to end highway impasse...but JCC says not soon enough

By Renuka Singh

Hours after the 48-hour deadline elapsed yesterday, the Joint Consultative Council for the construction industry (JCC) received a response from the Government on its proposed plan to end Dr Wayne Kublalsingh's hunger strike.

In a letter yesterday to JCC chairman Afra Raymond, Works Minister Emmanuel George, who stated that the matter had been referred to him as the line minister with responsibility for the highway, invited Raymond and members of his team to a meeting next Monday at 11 a.m.

"Please let me know if you agree with that suggested date and time for the meeting," the letter, signed by George, stated.

The JCC proposal, which was delivered just after midday to the Office of the Prime Minister on Wednesday, detailed 12 points to help end the hunger strike by Kublalsingh.

Kublalsingh began a hunger strike 17 days ago, in a bid to impel the Government to undertake a technical review of the Debe-to-Mon Desir section of the highway to Point Fortin.

The proposal was signed by the JCC, the Federation of Independent Trade Unions and Nongovernmental Organisations, Women Working for Social Progress and the Trinidad and Tobago Transparency Institute, and was endorsed by representatives of the Association of Professional Engineers, the Institute of Surveyors of Trinidad and Tobago, Trinidad and Contractors Association and the Trinidad and Tobago Institute of Architects.

The five-page document called for the appointment of Dr James Armstrong to chair a technical review committee, and asked that the technical review committee not involve persons who have had any involvement in the project to date.

It also stated that the independent review committee report be made available to the Prime Minister, the Re-Route Movement and the public at the same time; that citizens, through the Government, pay for this independent technical review and that the review team report in a period not exceeding three months.

Kublalsingh was also given a copy of the proposal and agreed to abide by the terms and end his hunger strike, once the Prime Minister agreed to it.

But the JCC was not impressed with the Minister's response and said it did not reflect the urgency of the situation.

"Your letter proposes a meeting on this matter at your office on Monday, December 3, at 11 a.m. In our view, your proposal does not reflect the sheer urgency now evident in this situation. Please note that my colleagues and I remain ready, willing and able to meet with your team at short notice at any prior time.

"The JCC remains committed to the timely, transparent and independent review of this section of this ongoing highway project, so we await your urgent response," Raymond said in a response to George's letter yesterday.

Attempts to reach George last night for a comment proved futile, as several calls to his cellphone were unanswered.

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