Saturday, December 16, 2017

Highway 'to benefit the majority'


'Empathises': Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar speaks during her address at the United National Congress Monday-night forum at Tulsa Trace Hindu School in Penal. —Photo: DEXTER PHILIP

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Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar was the only speaker at the United National Congress (UNC) Monday-night forum in Penal to mention the name of environmentalist and hunger striker Dr Wayne Kublalsingh.

The Prime Minister said she empathised with the Highway Re-Route Movement and Kublalsingh, and asked him to reconsider his position in light of the Joint Consultative Council (JCC) meeting with Government Ministers.

Monday night's platform was a stark contrast to last week's meeting in Debe, where Kublalsingh's hunger strike was criticised by every platform speaker, notably Minister of National Security Jack Warner and Housing Minister Roodal Moonilal.

Many of the remarks were considered offensive and the Congress of the People—a People's Partnership coalition member—distanced itself from the comments.

Persad-Bissessar, UNC chairman Warner, Moonilal, Minister of Works and Infrastructure Emmanuel George, Minister in the Ministry of Works and Infrastructure Stacy Roopnarine and Minister of Transport Chandresh Sharma addressed the audience at both meetings.

Persad-Bissessar told supporters: "For those of you who are of the view that I am not compassionate enough, I want to say I do care. I empathise with the Highway Re-Route Movement, their members and with Dr Wayne Kublalsingh. I empathise with them, I feel their pain.

"But I cannot let a few people determine what is good for 300,000 people. And so my compassion, as painful as it may be, must be going to making the decisions for the benefit of the greater majority of our citizens."

She added: "Tonight I ask Mr Kublalsingh to reconsider his position in light of the JCC meeting with Government. I call upon him and his family to show some care and compassion and to take charge of Mr Kublalsingh and to ensure his health and safety, in the interest of the greater good."

Warner said a person's life was not worth ten miles of a highway.

And without naming Kublalsingh, he said: "If some people choose to fast over ten miles of highway and if they believe life is worth ten miles of a highway, then go ahead."

Warner said life was about choices and the majority of people chose to live for their children and the development of Trinidad and Tobago.

"We want to join hands with the Prime Minister to build this country, so life is a matter of choices and we have inherited the Westminster democracy where the majority counts. If the majority does not count and the minority count, it means that we shall be living under a dictatorship of the minority... and that can't make sense."

Warner said the People's Partnership Government was facing opposition from People's National Movement supporters in Trinidad and Tobago and abroad.

"All over the country they trying to give us trouble. Out of the country, they giving us trouble; in London, in New York. They giving Nan (Rudrawatee Nan Ramgoolam, T&T Consul General in New York) all kind of worries in New York because they have not yet accepted the fact that we are in government. They say we reign, but they rule. Well I want to tell them that is over, because life is about choices. We have decided to continue the highway," he said.

At last week's meeting, Warner described visitors to Kublalsingh's protest camp as drama queens with a political agenda. He said Kublalsingh was being dishonest about being on a hunger strike, claiming he (Kublalsingh) was eating hearty meals at night, at secret locations.

Warner said then: "They say the Prime Minister is killing Wayne Kublalsingh, but he is killing himself and he better do it quickly."