Tuesday, January 23, 2018


Senior Counsel: State can take action against environmentalist for attempted suicide


DOWN 42 pounds in one week: Highway Re-Route Movement leader Dr Wayne Kublalsingh holds up his T-shirt to show how he has lost weight during day seven of his hunger strike outside the office of the Prime Minister in St Clair yesterday. —Photo: ISHMAEL SALANDY

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SHOULD environmentalist Dr Wayne Kublalsingh continue his hunger strike and is on the verge of death, common law dictates that the State can take action against him for attempted suicide.

This was stated yesterday by senior counsel Dana Seetahal.

"First of all, anybody can go on that kind of strike, but there is actually a criminal offence called attempted suicide according to common law.

"According to this law, anyone assisting could also be liable," she said.

"If somebody is doing an act of this nature that could result in his death, the State could intervene," she said.

Kublalsingh and the Re-Route Movement have been protesting the construction of the Debe to Mon Desir section of the highway on the grounds that the environment would be affected and families dislodged.

Kublalsingh went on a hunger strike last Thursday saying he would not stop until Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar meets with him.

As the strike enters its eighth day today, Kublalsingh says he no longer wants to meet with Persad-Bissessar but wants her to keep her promise and establish a committee to review the Debe to Mon Desir section of the highway project.

Since he decided to embark on a hunger strike last Thursday, Kublalsingh has lost approximately 42 pounds and is growing weaker by the minute.

In a telephone conversation with the Express yesterday, Seetahal explained that "suicide, according to the law, is a crime.

"It is no longer relevant when you're dead, but it is a crime. So attempted suicide is something that you can be charged with."

Furthermore, she said Kublalsingh's family was also liable if he dies as a result of the hunger strike.

"A decision can be taken by them, they can do it, they have the first duty," she said.

Seetahal explained that by action or omission, if his relatives failed to act to ensure that he is fed, they can be charged with manslaughter.

"If he evolves to a state where he can't think for himself, the guardian in the eyes of the law—his parents, wife, siblings— have a duty to act to ensure that he is fed...because it is arguable that they can be liable to manslaughter," she said.

Manslaughter is generally divided into two main areas—voluntary and involuntary. The absence of the element of intent is the key distinguishing factor between voluntary and involuntary manslaughter.

Involuntary manslaughter, sometimes called criminally negligent homicide occurs where there is no intention to kill or cause serious injury but death is due to recklessness or criminal negligence.

Voluntary manslaughter occurs when the defendant may have an intent to cause death or serious injury, but the potential liability for the person is mitigated by the circumstances and state of mind.