Thursday, January 18, 2018

Supporters of highway extension come out


Ready for the road: Protesters who support the Solomon Hochoy highway extension during a show of solidarity outside the constituency office of Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar in Penal yesterday. —Photo: DEXTER PHILIP

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HIGHWAY hunger striker Dr Wayne Kublalsingh and his supporters were the subject of criticism and ridicule yesterday by people who came to the Penal constituency office of Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar to show their support for the highway construction.

Placards with the words "eat ah food" were held aloft by the protesters, many of whom said they lived in Debe and Penal.

Some members of the group said they were workers of the Community-based Environmental protection and Enhancement Programme (CEPEP) and Unemployment Relief programme.

They assembled from around 1 p.m. in the constituency car park and on the street outside the constituency office, demanding an end to the delays in the construction of the highway extension.

They chanted, "We want the highway, we want it right now," as they rang bells, blew conch shells and waved placards with the words "Build the highway, end the suffering of thousands", "Kublalsingh wake up and smell the coffee", "Thanks PM, Jack, and Stacy for the highway" and "We want progress, open the highway".

Cyrus Ramkissoon, 50, of Doorbassa Trace, San Francique Road, Penal, said Kublalsingh and his supporters ought to stop their protests and allow progress to take its course.

"Kublalsingh is a wicked man. He does not live here. We are the ones who live here and we want the highway," Ramkissoon said.

Amjad Ali, 48, of PCO Village, Fyzabad, who was told six years ago, by the National Infrastructure Development Company Ltd, his house was in the path of the proposed highway extension, said he had no intentions of joining the Highway Re-Route Movement.

"At a consultation meeting in Debe, they reacted like hooligans when told of the move. I really don't want to move. The highway is for progress and me and my family stand for progress. It will be beneficial for the entire country."

Devi Singh, a mother of two of SS Erin Road, said the highway extension would alleviate hours of traffic which residents face daily to take their children to school and to get to work.

Singh, 46, said while her house was not earmarked to be demolished to make way for the highway, she sympathised with the members of the group whose houses were earmarked for demolition.

"We know how they are feeling, but we have to compromise and obey the law. If I was told I had to move, I might have fought like them. But in the end, I would do what is for the good of our country."

Singh, a CEPEP worker, said she and others who were at the protest encountered many safety issues as a result of the traffic.

"We have to work on the roads even during the heavy traffic which is very dangerous for us," said Singh.

Protester Lorris Supersad sat crossed-legged in the parking lot, imitating Kublalsingh, and telling the Express, "Right now my mouth dry and I can't speak to the media. But I proposed to start a hunger strike today from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. because I want a highway."

Vinode Ramsumair, 32, a sanitation worker of Ramai Trace, Debe, said the demonstration was a peaceful one aimed at airing the views of residents who were in favour of the highway extension.

Ramsumair said he and others turned up at Persad-Bissessar's constituency office to meet with the Prime Minister, but she was not in the office.

He said they were given permission by an employee in Persad-Bissessar's office to remain in the car park, and were later told their message to the Prime Minister would be relayed to her.