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FITUN: Minister George in breach of trust

By Kim Boodram

WORKS Minister Emmanuel George yesterday stood accused of misleading the public with statements Thursday that the report on the extension of the Solomon Hochoy Highway to Point Fortin was in favour of Government going ahead with the project.

The Federation of Independent Trade Unions (FITUN), a member of the Highway Report led by the Joint Consultative Committee (JCC), in a media statement yesterday said George — and by extension the Government — had committed a "grave breach of trust" in speaking publicly on the document before time.

George made a blanket statement during Thursday's post-Cabinet press conference that the report's only reprimand stemmed from the State's poor approach to civil society in carrying out projects of that magnitude.

The report, in fact, advises that if Government decides to proceed, major shortcomings in the assessment of the social, environmental and economic impact of the project must first be resolved.

George also broke an embargo imposed by the JCC that the report or its details were not to be released until noon yesterday, when it was said the report would be published on the JCC's website.

"The Federation of Independent Trade Unions and Non Governmental Organisations would like to publicly condemn the obscene political spin that the Minister of Works, Mr Emmanuel George, has attempted to engage in with respect to the Report of the Independent Review Committee that was set up to look at the contentious issues surrounding the Debe to Mon Desir Link of the Highway to Point Fortin," stated FITUN.

"We feel compelled to say to the public that the Minister was very economical with the truth when he stated that the Highway Review Committee gave the go-ahead for the Debe to Mon Desir Link of the Highway.

"From the Report that we have read, it is pellucidly clear that there was never any statement by the Committee to that effect.

"FITUN would also like to condemn the Minister and by extension the Government for committing a grave breach of trust. We recall that there was an understanding by all parties involved in the process that the report would be first submitted to NIDCO for its attention and parties were to refrain from making any public statements on the contents of the report before it was published by the JCC.

"As far as FITUN is concerned, all other parties held firm to their side of the agreement with the exception of the Government."

FITUN said it was also concerned that an attempt to mislead the population was made immediately after a Cabinet meeting, suggesting that George's views reflected those of the entire Cabinet.

The report was to be withheld until procedural issues are sorted out between the JCC and the National Infrastructure Development Company (Nidco).

"We thought that after all the previous governance blunders, that on such an important issue as the Highway Reroute Review Committee Report, that the Government would have at least learnt its lesson," FITUN said.

"But it seems that once again, the Government has destroyed whatever remnants of trust that the population has left for them after a series of missteps and apparent acts of deception."

FITUN said it will not allow the Government, through "political grandstanding", to destroy the commendable work of civil society and the group that produced the report.

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