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More blows for Govt from Kublalsingh's supporters

By Renuka Singh

The People's Partnership is being slammed for what is perceived as a lack of urgency in the handling of the now 18-day long hunger strike by environmental activist Dr Wayne Kublalsingh.

The People's National Movement (PNM), the Joint Consultative Council and Kublalsingh all expressed concern and disappointment that Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar has not yet properly addressed a matter that has engaged public and international interest for more than two weeks.

In a telephone interview yesterday PNM leader Dr Keith Rowley said he had "court clothes" and bashed both the Prime Minister and National Security Minister Jack Warner for "mishandling" the situation.

"I did anticipate them mishandling the situation," he said.

"Where else can a Government Minister tell a hunger striker to hurry up and dead?" he asked, referring to statements made by Warner at a Government public forum in Debe last Monday.

"I want to know what Warner prayed for in the Cabinet prayer. Warner said Dr Kublalsingh was eating doubles in the back of a van," Rowley said.

"We have seen the foolishness of Warner and his naked use of power when he destroyed the Highway Re-Route Camp," he said.

Rowley also blasted Persad-Bissessar for "embarrassing" the country on an international scale by improperly handling the negative fallout from the hunger strike.

Rowley visited Kublalsingh's makeshift camp on November 22, one week into his hunger strike and after speaking with him, wrote to Persad-Bissessar. In that letter, Rowley said it was his "sincerest suggestion that this is a situation where the age-old principle of "nobles oblige" could be applied for the wider good of not just those directly involved but for the peace, respect and reputation of the nation as a whole".

"In the time since I wrote that, I have seen myself attacked, denigrated in public by this government, but there has still been no official response from the Prime Minister," Rowley said yesterday. He was referring to the Government's public meeting in Debe last Monday where she publicly acknowledged his letter. She said then that "such thinking does not exist any longer in the new government for it is our philosophy that we are all one. In our government there are no kings and commoners, no masters and slaves."

"I thought if the Prime Minister received this correspondence she would deal with the matter in a decent manner. But not these people," he said.

Rowley urged that the Prime Minister and her Ministers leave the levity to local comedians "Sprangalang" and Tommy Joseph. He said the Government's "shallowness" was obvious in their response to the attempted mediation by the Joint Consultative Council and other civil bodies.

Afra Raymond, president of the JCC, also voiced his disappointment yesterday in the government's lack of urgency in resolving this impasse. Raymond and other civil bodies delivered a proposal to the Prime Minister last Wednesday offering an amicable solution to the stand-off. Hours after the 1 p.m. deadline passed on Friday. Raymond received a letter from Works Minister Emmanuel George suggesting a meeting tomorrow at 11 a.m. Raymond was not impressed with that time frame.

"I am very disappointed, we are disappointed and we remain willing, ready and able to meet with the Minister at any time over the weekend," he said in a telephone interview yesterday.

Though Raymond reiterated that urgency to George in an email response on Friday, he had not received a response yesterday.

"Let the record show, we are ready. I am disappointed, but I am also hopeful that good sense will prevail and we would see a solution to this issue," he said.

Kublalsingh said yesterday he was more disappointed that Persad-Bissessar had sidestepped her responsibilities by passing the core of responsibility to a Minister and not dealing with it herself.

"She has, once again, shifted responsibility to a line Minister," he said in a telephone interview yesterday.

Kublalsingh said his letter was addressed to the Prime Minister, as was the JCC's letter and yet she referred all responsibility to Works Minister Emmanuel George.

When asked for a comment on the Government's response to the JCC proposal via text yesterday, Persad-Bissessar responded: "Please speak with Line Minister George."

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