‘NO PROMISES MADE’: Activist Dr Wayne Kublalsingh, centre, leaves President’s House in St Ann’s following a meeting with President Anthony Carmona yesterday. —Photo: ISHMAEL SALANDY
More gracious than Kamla, says Wayne
Praise for Carmona after talks
PRESIDENT Anthony Carmona was yesterday described as being much more “gracious” than Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar, following his meeting with the Highway Re-Route Movement (HRM) at President’s House yesterday.
A three-member delegation of the HRM, led by activist Dr Wayne Kublalsingh and including Debe residents Shereen Boodhai and Balliram Siew, spoke for almost two hours with Carmona yesterday morning, after which Kublalsingh said the group was “hopeful” that Carmona would make a fair assessment of its request that Government use an alternative route for the Debe to Mon Desir segment of the San Fernando to Point Fortin Highway extension.
Carmona, who did not address the media after the meeting, was “extremely kind, gracious and respectful”, Kublalsingh said.
“The treatment we received today was the opposite of what we have had from the Prime Minister,” Kublalsingh said in a statement outside President’s House in St Ann’s afterwards.
“We were warmly received, taken into a lovely reception room. We were offered refreshments and treated with respect and dignity.”
All three wore smiles as they left the President’s office and said that in spite of no promises being made in their favour, they were heartened by Carmona’s humility and willingness to listen during the meeting.
Kublalsingh said Carmona was presented with a copy of the report submitted to the Government by the Highway Review Committee (HRC), an independent body formed in December 2012 to investigate the mega-project.
The HRM had in March written to the President, seeking an audience and an invitation to meet was issued by the Office of the President this week.
The report, produced in 60 days, was preceded by a 21-day hunger fast staged by Kublalsingh outside the Office of the Prime Minister in St Clair, in protest of the proposed relocation of over 200 families to build the contentious segment of the highway, among other issues.
The President, according to Kublalsingh, said he was not yet in a position to opine on the ongoing rift between the civic group at the State but expressed interest in reading the report “page by page”.
Carmona told the group he was looking at meeting them again in September this year, by which time he would have edified himself on the specifics of the situation and the report, Kublalsingh said.
He told the HRM representatives that while he does not have executive powers, he will exercise his advisory powers with the executive of the Government, Kublalsingh said.
Carmona did not disclose whether he has ever discussed this particular matter with Persad-Bissessar or any members of her Cabinet, since he took up office in March. He has also not yet offered an opinion on the manner in which the issue has been handled by the Persad-Bissessar and the Government, according to Kublalsingh.
Kublalsingh last Monday re-started a daily protest outside the PM’s St Clair office, though not a hunger strike, and has accused her of reneging on a promise to abide by the findings of the report — one of the recommendations of which is that the contentious portion of the highway be halted until further environmental, social and economic impact assessments are completed.
Persad-Bissessar, who met with the group last Thursday for the first time, this week denied having made such a promise.
Last week’s maiden discussion ended quickly, with Persad-Bissessar closing the discussions early after being asked repeatedly, by Kublalsingh, whether she intended to obey the HRC’s report and whether she intended to oblige when an outcome is reached on a constitutional motion filed by the group in the High Court.
Following the meeting with the President, Kublalsingh and the group went on to continue protesting outside the PM’s office.
“Oh yes, we are going to continue,” Kublalsingh said, when asked whether the group will make good on its promise to have its presence known on a daily basis until a solution — or an answer from Persad-Bissessar — is on the table.
Kublalsingh said there are lessons for the nation in the entire issue and for the government with regard to the manner in which citizens are treated when the government sets its sights on projects of this magnitude.
Kublalsingh was on Monday warned by police that with no proper permits in hand, the HRM was not allowed to stage large scale demonstrations at that venue and that he will be held liable for any such gatherings.
The activist has maintained that he is staging a one-man protest of his own accord and he cannot dictate to the citizenry where they may or may not choose to show their support.