CHECKING THE ROUTE: Earl Wilson, left, Nidco project manager in charge of the highway to Point Fortin; Mike Bradley, third from right, AECOM HSE manager; Dennis Harricharan, second from right, and Stephen Miller, AECOM resident engineer, review aerial photos of the route at the National Helicopter Services Limited heliport at Camden, Couva, before yesterday's aerial tour for the media. –Photo: DEXTER PHILIP

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As JCC and Works Minister get ready to meet today, 4 Independent senators call on Govt to take first step in highway impasse

By Asha Javeed asha.javeed@trinidadexpress.com

In an unprecedented move, four independent senators are calling on the People's Partnership Government to take the "necessary first step" to bring to an end the current impasse between the administration and environmentalist hunger striker Dr Wayne Kublalsingh.

The independent senators, who issued a press statement yesterday, are Elton Prescott, SC, Dr Rolph Balgobin, Corinne Baptiste McKnight and Dr Lennox Bernard.

Kublalsingh has been engaged in a hunger strike for the past 18 days to protest the construction of the Debe-to-Mon Desir segment of the San Fernando-to-Point Fortin Highway.

Today makes it day 19.

The independent senators's call comes ahead of today's planned meeting with civil society groups, headed by the Joint Consultative Council (JCC), and the Government, headed by Works Minister Emmanuel George.

It also follows a statement made by Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar, at a United National Congress meeting on Saturday night, that the $7.3 billion highway will continue.

The JCC had proposed last week that an independent technical review be conducted as a way of bringing to an end Kublalsingh's protest.

The senators said, "In light of the circumstances and with full regard to the public interest, we encourage both sides to engage in the spirit of compromise and ask that the Government take the necessary first step in order to bring an end to the current impasse.

"We have taken note of the serious issues raised in relation to the Point Fortin Highway project. It appears plain that both the Highway Re-Route Movement and the Government have significantly differing views of the project, and that these differences are unlikely to be reconciled in the near future."

As a means of "defusing" the present situation, the independent senators said they supported the call by the JCC for the Government to publish the independent technical review for the project.

"If such an independent technical review does not exist, then we propose that the Government should commission such a review. We are of the view that such a study should conform to best practice, begin immediately, should be presented in its entirety to the public and be funded from the public purse," they said.

Trinidad and Tobago Transparency Institute (TTTI) head Derrick Murray is also expected to attend today's meeting with the Works Minister to help end the stand-off between the Government and Kublalsingh.

Last night, a news release from George's office stated that a news conference will take place at noon today at the ministry headquarters, at the corner of Richmond and London Streets, Port of Spain.

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