TWO months after being arrested when police and soldiers destroyed the Highway Re-Route Movement camp at Debe, the group's leader, Dr Wayne Kublalsingh, said yesterday injuries he suffered during the arrest have left him with mobility problems.
Kublalsingh said he suffered nerve damage in both wrists caused by handcuffs in June, when police and the army were called in to demolish the camp set up by the movement—a group of citizens from Debe and environs who want the Government to change the Debe-to-Mon Desir section of the Pt Fortin Highway.
Kublalsingh has led the movement since last year, after being called on by some 200 families who will be relocated if the highway follows the intended route.
Then Works and Infrastructure Minister Jack Warner had ordered the demolition of the camp and later accused Kublalsingh of slapping a soldier, which the activist denied.
Kublalsingh was arrested and detained for about six hours, before being released on orders to keep the peace. He said yesterday he knew "right away upon being arrested" that something had happened to his wrists and that the handcuffs were too tight.
Kublalsingh said he had been put in a "stress hold", face down, by one of the arresting officers for some minutes, and began to feel his shoulders being dislocated.
He said he "relented" and stood up calmly when he realised what was happening, as he did not want to suffer a dislocated shoulder.
In the weeks following, Kublalsingh said he began to suffer pain and swelling in the wrists and hands, and has been told by several doctors that he had suffered nerve damage on the day of his arrest.
"The officer at the San Fernando Police Station who took off the cuffs remarked that they seemed very tight," Kublalsingh said yesterday in a telephone interview.
Recovery could take months or more, he said. "I cannot do many basic things for myself," he added. "I can't drive or dress myself properly. I can't type or write. I have to eat with plastic tools because metal cutlery puts too much strain on my wrists."
The injury has aggravated a pre-existing auto-immune condition, he said, which has caused pain and swelling in other joints, including his knees and elbows.
In addition to the medical expenses incurred, Kublalsingh said his quality of life has been compromised.
"I don't want to put blame on the police or soldiers that day," he said. "I put the blame squarely on the shoulders of Mr Warner. He had no rights to move the camp in the first place. The camp was within its rights, having been given permission by Namdevco (the National Agricultural Marketing and Development Corporation) to set up, providing the camp was removed from the land once the movement was over. We should have been served notice by the State prior to being moved but due process was not followed."
Kublalsingh said he does not intend to seek compensation from the State for his injuries but wished to demonstrate the disrespectful manner in which the concerns of citizens are being handled.