highway rivals: Edward Moodie of the Debe to Point Fortin Highway Action Committee addresses opposing protestors outside the offices of the Members of Parliament for Oropouche East and West in Debe yesterday. —Photo: DAVE PERSAD

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Protest leads to shouting match

By Carolyn Kissoon carolyn.kissoon@trinidadexpress.com

 DEBE

A protest by people who intended to demand answers on the construction of the Debe to Mon Desir segment of the Solomon Hochoy Highway extension to Point Fortin descended into a shouting match between rival sides yesterday.

The Debe to Point Fortin Highway Action Committee, headed by Edward Moodie, had planned to visit the offices of the Members of Parliament for Oropouche East and West and the National Infrastructure Development Company (Nidco) yesterday. 

The protest was however obstructed by a group of Debe residents who called on the group of step aside and allow development to continue.

Moodie said, “My protest was not a surprise to anyone because I informed people about it yesterday. So these ministers called their people to bully us and insult us. They were shouting for the construction of the highway. We are not against the highway, we just want proper compensation and treatment.”

Moodie, a former Nidco consultant, said he was representing a group of residents who were relocated to rented apartments to make way for the construction of the highway. He claimed that the Oropouche West MP Stacy Roopnarine informed the homeowners that the Government will no longer pay rental for the apartments. And the lands allocated to the affected residents at Petite Morne, Moodie said, were not prepared for housing. However, Roopnarine told the media that she had never indicated to residents that payments had ceased. “The Government did not put out anybody. I do not have the authority to put out anyone,” she said.

Speaking with reporters at her constituency office yesterday, Roopnarine said 80 lots were already sold to homeowners but houses were not constructed, as the landowners were awaiting approvals on building plans.

She said for the past three years residents were being relocated and no one was ever put on the streets.

Roopnarine said the protests were either politically motivated or the result of miscommunication. 

However, Moodie argued that residents had not received leases to the lands. 

And residents living on lands near the construction site were not being protected, he said. Moodie added, “No dust screens have been set up next to residences in Debe, Fyzabad, Mon Desir, Rousillac and Point Fortin despite the fact that the certificate of environmental clearance mandates that mitigation measures be put in place... where is the EMA?”

Housing Minister Dr Roodal Moonilal, who was at his constituency office in Debe yesterday, agreed to meet Moodie and his group last evening.

“We are waiting to see the minister. We have been here for the past four hours. he said he will meet us so will intend to wait for how ever long it takes,” Moodie said. 

THE FACTS:  

*Sod turned on January 25, 2011, for start of the $7.6 billion extension of the Solomon Hochoy Highway from Golconda to Point Fortin

*The 47 kilometres of roadway includes a four-lane dual carriageway and 2.5 km of a two-lane roadway 

*The project is plagued by protests by the Highway Re-Route Movement (HRM) due to environmental concerns.

*  HRM leader Dr Wayne Kublalsingh has been arrested three times, staged a hunger-strike in protest, and the group sued the State to halt the construction work. 

*Case has been thrown out of the High Court

* Nidco president Dr Carson Charles says the highway extension is expected to be completed in mid-2015.

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