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Re-Route activist claims arson

By Carolyn Kissoon carolyn.kissoon@trinidadexpress.com

A garden shed belonging to a Highway Re-Route Movement (HRM) member was torched on Sunday evening. Devanand Soogrim, owner of five acres of farm land at Debe, said he believes he was a victim of an arson attack.
Soogrim, of Suchit Trace, Penal, said he was victimised and threatened for standing up against the Government to re-route the Debe to Mon Desir segment of the Solomon Hochoy Highway extension to Point Fortin. Soogrim’s three houses and five-acre agricultural land are in the path of the multi-billion-dollar highway.
“I am almost certain that someone came here and set the farm house on fire to scare me. I built the house in the garden to store chemicals, equipment, tools and other belongings,” he said.
Soogrim estimated his losses at $15,000.
HRM leader Dr Wayne Kublalsingh has called on the Government to intervene. He said members were being harassed and threatened for standing up for their rights.
“Devanand Soogrim owns a five-acre plot of land, he is a very successful farmer. He built three houses and the houses and the farm are in the way of the Debe to Mon Desir segment. He has been with us since the inception of the HRM. He has always been from the position of no highway between Debe and Mon Desir, no compensation and no relocation. Many persons in the community who have accepted compensation or who support the Government have become very antagonistic towards him,” he said.
Kublalsingh said although there was no evidence to indicate an arson attack, the cause of the fire remained a mystery.
“We think this is an apparent case of arson. In that Oropouche bank he (Soogrim) is one of the persons who has stood out against the Government, he stood up against surveyors and those who have asked him to accept compensation. He has been targeted,” he said.

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