Friday, February 23, 2018

Kublalsingh threatens to go on hunger strike again


Another round: Highway Re-Route Movement (HRM) leader Dr Wayne Kublalsingh gives an undertaking to start another hunger strike during a news conference at the HRM camp,  at Gopie Trace, Penal, yesterday. —Photo: INNIS FRANCIS

Mark Fraser

Port of Spain


ANOTHER hunger strike by environmentalist Dr Wayne Kublalsingh could be on the way if Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar does not abide by her promise to the Highway Re-Route Movement (HRM) to suspend construction of the Debe to Mon Desir section of the billion-dollar extension of the Sir Solomon Hochoy Highway.  

Kublalsingh, leader of the HRM, said yesterday he was “forced to take action”, since construction began last week on that section of the highway.

He said this was in contravention of Persad-Bissessar’s promise to abide by the findings of the James Armstrong report to examine several matters related to the highway before proceeding with construction.

“She made us a promise. She said ‘I will review, I will review. I will put the Mon Desir to Debe highway on hold’. That’s what she told us, but what has happened? It’s not the promise of a sweetie. It’s not the promise of a fancy hat, or a bottle of water. It’s a promise to protect rich ecological social valued economic assets. What happened?” asked Kublalsingh during a news conference at the HRM camp at Gopie Trace, Penal.

He said on Wednesday he will deliver a letter to Persad-Bissessar again appealing to her to abide by the Armstrong report, outlining their position and the terms of the hunger strike.

From November 15 to December 5, 2012 Kublalsingh engaged in a hunger strike outside the office of the Prime Minister in St Clair.

He ended the strike after the Joint Consultative Council for the Construction Industry (JCC) and other civil society groups released the terms of reference for the independent review committee comprising 19 scientists headed by Dr Armstrong.

Kublalsingh said: “We’ve been sitting in front of the PM’s office for 175 days now between the hours of 7 a.m. and 2 p.m. They have not met with us. They have started works and they have continued works. Last week they started there on the proposed Penal Interchange.

“We cannot accept that. That is the heart of the community. That is the beast that has come to dig a dagger in our hearts.

“After suffering, penances, penalties, hunger strikes, protests, demonstrations and abuse by members of Parliament. Should we succumb like lambs to a slaughter and turn our necks and give up on what we have? We cannot do it. So we have been forced to take an action, which I don’t like and nobody wants to hear about it.”

The HRM leader added: “No Trinidadian wants it because it is nasty thing, it does terrible things to the body.”

In May, the HRM failed in its legal action to get a conservatory order to stop construction of the Debe to Mon Desir segment pending the outcome of the constitutional case brought by the group.

Justice James Aboud ruled that members of the HRM waited too long to file legal action.

Kublalsingh told the media he hoped the next hunger strike would not last for 21 days as the last one.

Asked about the impact the strike could have on his health he said: “I am not as strong as I was then. I rely on the spirit and I think once I put my body and our principles forward we will get the support of Trinidad and Tobago. And the spirit that will carry us through.

“When I went on the last hunger strike I did not know I would be able to carry on for 21 days. It was the spirit that took over and led us to a limited victory which led us to get the Armstrong report.”

He said none of the members of his family wished for him to engage in the hunger strike.

Kublalsingh’s father, Ray Kublalsingh, died in July.

He said he hoped for the respect of his family and of the nation, he did not want anyone to touch him, arrest him, or take him for medical attention.

“When I go on the hunger strike I wish the PM to respect my body, to not come and touch it, to not arrest it, to not put it in prison or in hospital. They must respect what we are doing and respect my body.

“I ask the nation to respect what I am doing and respect the principles we are fighting for and do not interfere with my body at all. That will takes its course and I think God will take over at a certain point when he wants,” said the environmentalist.

He said he hoped other members of the HRM will join him on the strike, but they did not have to endure it for as long as he might.

“It’s important because in all our history and independence we have failed to keep promises. We have failed to keep our Independence pledge. We have failed to obey the Republican Constitution. We must not fail again. My promise is the total protection of ecological assets of Trinidad and Tobago in whatever small way I can and I will not shirk on that promise.”