Saturday, February 17, 2018

Cops detain Kublalsingh


TAKEN AWAY: Vandana Boodhai of the Highway Re-Route Movement is taken away by police officers yesterday after the group climbed an excavator and demanded that no construction takes place on the Debe to Mon Desir segment of the highway to Point Fortin. Boodhai was among three people arrested at Gopee Trace, Penal. —Photo: INNIS FRANCIS

Mark Fraser

Environmentalist Dr Wayne Kublalsingh and two members of his Highway Re-Route Movement were taken into police custody yesterday and are expected to be charged with obstruction and resisting arrest.

The three were detained after members of the movement surrounded an OAS Constructura excavator and demanded that no work be undertaken at the construction site at Gopee Trace, Penal.

The residents, led by Kublalsingh, marched to the site and surrounded the equipment around 10.30 a.m.

The men and women held up long syringe-like tubes used to spray abeer during Phagwa celebrations and threatened to spray the equipment if the workers refused to vacate the land.

The OAS workers abandoned the excavator and left the site, returning later with a large contingent of police officers.

Fixin T&T leader Kirt Waithe travelled to Penal to support the movement in its fight against the Government.

The Highway Re-Route Movement have been protesting the construction of the Debe to Mon Desir segment of the Solomon Hochoy Highway extension to Point Fortin.

The movement is calling on Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar to listen to the residents affected by that segment of the highway. 

The group demanded that the Government abide by the recommendations contained in the Armstrong report and respect the matter being heard against the construction of the Debe to Mon Desir segment of the highway in the Hall of Justice.

Kublalsingh said several residents were served notices indicating that properties were acquired by the State.

Baliram Siew, 74, said he lived in a parcel of land for 60 years, planting crops and raising his family. Siew was given notice on Friday.

“I am not squatting. I own this land. I was served notice but I am not giving up. They will have to bulldoze that house with me inside. They never discussed compensation or relocation with me. In fact I don’t want any compensation or relocation. I                                      want to be able to live in my home for the rest if my life,” he said.

Resident Vandana Boodhai said, “The Government continues to act shamelessly, immorally and unethically. They continue to use delay tactics in the courts and while they are delaying the court process, they are working feverishly to get more and more work done in the Debe to Mon Desir area. And now, they are intimidating residents by giving them section four notices, to frighten them, to bully them out, regardless of what their situation is.”

Boodhai said the Government has disregarded the matter being heard in the Hall of Justice against the Debe to Mon Desir segment of the highway.

“They must abide by the ten recommendations of the Armstrong report- a document of science and logic produced by 19 independent experts. Stop all works between Debe and Mon Desir and carry out the essential studies to determine the feasibility of this highway project — a social impact assessment, cost-benefit analysis and hydrology study, and focus on building the San Fernando to Point Fortin highway as the highway of priority. And stop all works between Debe and Mon Desir while this matter is being heard in the courts and await the decision of the court,” she said.

Kublalsingh instructed that four “tyres of shame” be strung on the excavator working on the land. He said the tyre of shame expressed the group’s resentment and unhappiness with the Government.

The residents climbed the excavator and refused to move until OAS removed the equipment from the land. The women protesters stood chanting Hindi bhajans and prayers, calling for justice.

But the police officers moved in and asked that they leave the site immediately.

Kublalsingh, standing on the hood of the equipment, watched as his followers were bodily removed by officers. He repeated that the movement was not breaking the law, but demanding fair treatment from the Government.

HRM member Ramkaran Bhagwandassingh threw himself on the ground and refused to be taken away by officers. He was lifted to a nearby police vehicle. 

Four police officers climbed the excavator and attempted to remove Kublalsingh. He was handcuffed and as officers attempted to take him down Kublalsingh pushed his body into the “tyre of shame”. He was pulled away and placed in another police vehicle.

Boodhai was also detained when she tried to prevent officers from taking Kublalsingh away.

As the three were being held by police officers the women protesters cried and shouted. The women screamed for the officers to set the members free.

The three were detained at the Penal Police Station up to last evening.

Kublalsingh was arrested three times last year as he led protests against the Debe to Mon Desir segment of the highway extension.