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Govt 'has given them the chance to speak'

By Irene Medina

The Peoples' Partnership Government is satisfied it has provided every opportunity to hunger striker Dr Wayne Kublalsingh and the Highway Re-Route Movement to voice their objections and concerns regarding the extension of the Solomon Hochoy Highway to Pt Fortin.

The Ministry of Communications stated this in a paid press advertisement, which it issued yesterday following the environmental activist's action to engage in a hunger strike to force Government's hand to treat with the removal of residents from their communities to make room for the highway, as well as environmental concerns.

Outlining the "facts" of the matter, the Ministry said Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar, along with then works minister Jack Warner and other ministers met with the activist and the re-route group on March 16, 2012.

According to the statement, "at the conclusion of the meeting the Prime Minister gave the assurance that the Debe-to-Mon Desir portion of the highway would be put on hold until technical investigations were concluded and the opinions of the group considered".

Again on April 18, Warner and his team from the Works Ministry, along with members of the Environmental Management Agency and NIDCO's president Dr Carson Charles, held discussions with Kublalsingh and his group.

According to the statement, a further meeting was held on June 18, where formal presentations were made to the concerned residents, identifying how the highway develop- ment would consider all issues raised.

It stated that the Highway Re-Route Movement rejected the presentations made and continued to block portions of the highway where works had begun, adding "they were advised that actions which prevented the contractors from doing their work would cost the country millions of dollars and given that all their concerns were taken into account and adjustments made to modify the plans and minimise any impact on communities, the project needed to proceed".

The Ministry further stated that the Ministry of Works and NIDCO later advised the Prime Minister that all obligations had been met regarding discussions, technical analyses and changes to the highway plans.

According to the statement, Works Minister Emmanuel George has expressed his regret that the group has remained "undeterred" despite all the discussions; and said while the Government's philosophy is to always allow open discussions, there comes a time when decisions must be made and action taken for the good of the country.

It pointed to the fact that the Re-Route Movement has taken the issue to the High Court, adding that the matter is now sub judice and any meeting between the group and the Government would be inadvisable.

The Ministry of Communications said the Government was committed to the rule of law and was prepared to let the court determine the issue, even as it hoped for an early resolution.

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