Thursday, December 14, 2017

Prakash knocked by protesters: 'eat-ah-food' minister


Turned away: Prakash Ramadhar

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Congress of the People leader Prakash Ramadhar, the second Government Minister to visit hunger striker Dr Wayne Kublalsingh in the past two days, also came under heavy criticism from members of the Highway Re-Route Movement, who labelled him an "eat-ah-food" Minister.

Ramadhar, on his own accord, attempted to meet with Kublalsingh on Tuesday outside the Prime Minister's office in St Clair, but was immediately refused.

"I respect his point of view, but there are huge forces at work: one is the Government and one is national development. There is no easy answer to this. There is always a sacrifice," Ramadhar said.

"I know I was coming here to face embarrassment," he added.

Ramadhar said he was involved in the re-route group in 2005 and again in 2006. "At that time, the issue was realignment, not a re-route and proper compensation."

He said despite the human aspect of Kublalsingh's struggle, the work had been continuing on the contentious highway. He said the matter was still before the courts and it had become a challenge between citizen and State.

Ramadhar noted that it was a court ruling that ended the Alutrint Smelter matter, and pleaded with Kublalsingh to eat something and let the courts handle this issue in that way.

But while Kublalsingh refused to meet with Ramadhar, he extended a warm welcome to former attorney general Ramesh Lawrence Maharaj.

Maharaj arrived at the camp site just before 4 p.m. and told Kublalsingh that even though the matter was before the courts, there was no legal rule barring Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar from meeting with him. "You are not a terrorist, you are not a criminal, so no prime minister or no president should be afraid to talk to you. They are only afraid to talk to you if they are afraid of not speaking the truth," he said.

Maharaj again listed the several meetings between Persad-Bissessar and the Highway Re-route team, where she said there would be no work until the technical review was completed.

"Your fast has nothing to do with the legal issue. It has to do with what the Prime Minister said and the keeping of the word of the Prime Minister, so sub judice does not come into it," he said.

"All this nonsense spoken by the Prime Minister yesterday, and she ought to know as a Senior Counsel that sub judice has no application to this and, further, that in civil law sub judice does not apply."

He said it is only in criminal law, when a jury can be influenced, does a matter remain sub judice.

Maharaj likened Kublalsingh to peaceful Indian activist Mahatma Gandhi, but Kublalsingh immediately refuted that claim. "I use colourful language," Kublalasingh said, referring to his obscenities toward Health Minister Dr Fuad Khan.

Former government minister Lincoln Mayers also visited Kublalsingh on Tuesday and offered his assistance to Works Minister Emmanuel George. "We have to do a cost-benefit analysis immediately. There is no time to waste," he said.

Between December 1985 and January 1986, Mayers fasted on the steps of the Hall of Justice, Port of Spain, for 40 days. His was not a hunger strike, but instead he fasted from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Kublalsingh was also visited by Oilfields Workers' Trade Union president-general Ancel Roget, Movement for Social Justice leader David Abdulah, musician Ray Holman and Port of Spain Mayor Louis Lee Sing.

Lee Sing said this was not his first visit to his friend. "I came to see him last Friday. I came today to make sure everything is intact. I don't think the country understands what is going on here," he said. "This Government never says what it means and never means what it says... as a citizen living in this country, that frightens me."

Lee Sing described Kublalsingh's struggle as "noble" and he too likened him to Gandhi.

"You cannot on one hand believe in Mahatma Gandhi and when someone with the class and nobility of Dr Kublalsingh makes a stand very similar in tone and nature and you turn around and describe him as needing to grow up, it tells me that you need to grow up."

Lee Sing called on the people and the Government to stop looking at what was done in the past, as that cannot be fixed. "We have a responsibility to fix today and tomorrow," he said.