PORT-OF-SPAIN, Trinidad, CMC – The Trinidad and Tobago government went on the offensive Monday night portraying environmentalist Dr. Wayne Kublalsingh, who is on a hunger strike as a member of a “cult” and a “conman” for his opposition to the construction of a highway in the south of the country.
National Security Minister Austin Jack Warner has described Kublalsingh, a lecturer at the University of the West Indies (UWI) as a “conman” and that he should quicken the pace of killing himself.
“Don’t feel sorry for him, he is a conman. The biggest conmen you can find in the land is (former prime minister Basdeo) Panday and Kublalsingh.
“They say of course how the Prime Minister is killing Kublalsingh, he killing himself, but he better do it quickly,” Warner said.
Kublalisngh, 53, goes into the 13th day of his hunger strike on Tuesday, but at a reactivated “Monday Night Forum”, members of the ruling United National Congress (UNC), including Prime Minister Kamla Persad Bissessar reiterated that the seven billion dollar (One TT dollar = US$0.16 cents) highway will be built.
Kublalsingh, who heads the Highway Re-route Movement, is calling for a section of the highway to be rebuilt warning that if the government continues on the present path it would lead to environmental damage and cause widespread flooding among other concerns.
“Why is it they do not want development that would come with this highway? Debe is the focal point. Debe is the centre of this highway. I ask tonight, why don’t they want this highway to pass through? I am told that 300,000 persons stand to benefit from this highway,” Prime Minister Persad Bissessar said at the Forum carried live on the state-owned television station. “Why don’t they want it? In the same way when we announced we would build a south campus of UWI in Debe, they asked, ‘why you building a UWI campus in Debe. So the people of the south land...are we not people too? Are we not citizens too?
She said the highway would bring much improved infrastructure to the area “and will create a more level economic playing field for all of Trinidad and Tobago.
“We will not stop this highway. My government will not be held to ransom by a handful of persons. We will continue to operate without fair or favour,” she said, displaying a technical report on the Mon Desir to Debe section of the highway, which she said had already been handed over to the environmentalist.
Housing Minister Dr. Roodial Moonilal, who has already labelled Kublalsingh as a “spoilt child” told the meeting that the environmentalist was merely acting and was not at all engaged in any hunger strike.
Speakers at the meeting had claimed that after staging his strike outside the Office of the Prime Minister during the day, Kublalsingh goes to have a “hearty meal” at a private residence in the night.
Moonilal said that Kublalsingh and the Highway Re-route Movement have sought to ‘embarrass the Prime Minister and her cabinet” during a meeting to discuss the highway a few months ago.
“When they come in they say hold on, they say we want a committee, but we want parity. That means if the committee is 20 people they want to have 10. What they think it is a vote at the United Nations”.
The senior Cabinet minister said that Kublalsingh is being aided and abetted by members of his family, adding “there is something surreal about every member of this family coming in a bizarre fashion on television.
“Every morning a different member of the family come to say we support him. The family appears to be a cult,” Moonilal said, warning that the country should now brace itself for violence since Kublalsingh is now “publicly” supported by the main opposition People’s National Movement (PNM) that has “always had violence as a political option.
“You have to watch that Kublalsingh is now in bed with the PNM and they may seek to perpetrate violence in this society to stop the development of the highway. We will not permit that,” he added.
Meanwhile, lawyers representing the Highway Re-Route Movement will on Thursday go before Justice Charmaine Pemberton as the lawsuit filed by the lobby group comes up for hearing in the Port-of-Spain High Court.
The movement is seeking an early trial. The lawsuit, filed in August, seeks to block the State from constructing a portion of the highway.
In an application filed last week, lawyers sought to have a speedy trial following Kublalsingh’s decision to embark on a hunger strike in support of his demands for an independent technical review of the Mon Desir to Debe segment of the highway.