Ramesh: Govt must heed HRC report or face criminal charges
Susan Mohammed Psusan.firstname.lastname@example.org
FORMER attorney general Ramesh Lawrence Maharaj said yesterday that Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar and her Cabinet may be charged with a criminal offence if they do not heed the findings of an independent report from the Highway Review Committee (HRC), which had been commissioned by the State, on the Mon Desir to Debe segment of the Point Fortin Highway.
Maharaj, a senior counsel and one of several attorneys representing the Highway Re-Route Movement (HRM), also appealed to Acting Commissioner of Police Stephen Williams and Director of Public Prosecutions Roger Gaspard to appoint a special unit to investigate whether the failure of Persad-Bissessar and her Cabinet to implement the findings of the report can amount to the criminal charge of misdemeanour in public office.
Maharaj spoke in a press conference at Paramount Building, San Fernando, with HRM leader Wayne Kublalsingh, his sister and attorney Judy Kublalsingh-Matthews, and HRM member Sherene Boodhai.
The former AG said he felt compelled to speak on the issue after Persad-Bissessar walked out from a meeting on Thursday with Kublalsingh and the HRM.
Following that meeting, Kublalsingh said Persad-Bissessar had been asked whether she intended to abide by the recommendations of an independent report from the HRC, led by Dr James Armstrong.
Speaking on the findings of the Armstrong report, Maharaj said: “This is a report which stated that there was poor planning by the Government in deciding to start the Mon Desir to Debe section of the highway. It is stated in black and white that there were inadequate investigations and inquiries done in relation to the impact which this highway would have on hum an life and the natural environment. In effect, the report is saying that it would be reckless, negligent, and an abuse of power to proceed with this part of the highway without studying these matters.
In an immediate response from Minister of Housing and Environment Dr Roodal Moonilal during a walkabout in his constituency yesterday, he said if Maharaj believes a criminal offence has been committed he should report the matter to the police or to the Integrity Commission for investigation.
“The Government makes policies, and policies will not always be popular. In fact, I can tell you that at mid-term Government it is not about a popularity contest. But you have to take action sometimes that is not popular but in the public interest. So that sometimes there is a tension between the public interest and popularity, and when you are in government you cannot do everything just for popularity. So that it may not be a popular policy and one may not agree with it but that does not mean that it is illegal,” said Moonilal.