PORT-OF-SPAIN, Trinidad, Friday November 30, 2012 – Foreign Minister Winston Dookeran has called “for compassion and compromise” as the hunger strike by environmentalist Dr. Wayne Kublalsingh entered its 16th day on Friday.
Dookeran, a member of the Congress of the People (COP) party, the second biggest partner int he four-party coalition headed by Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar, said that “Trinidad and Tobago must not be seen in the eyes of the international community as a decadent society”.
Prime Minister Persad-Bissessar has already blanked calls by Kublalsingh and the Highway Re-route Movement (HRM) for a re-think on the construction of the Debe to Mount Desir aspect of a multi-billion dollar highway from Port Fortin to San Fernando, south of here.
Senior government ministers, including National Security Minister, Austin Jack Warner and Housing Minister Dr. Roodial Moonilal have described the 53 year-old environmentalist as a “fraud, conman and trickster” and in the case of Warner have called for hunger strike to quicken the pace of his death.
Dookeran, who is in the Dominican Republic attending a meeting of the Caribbean Forum (CARIFORUM) grouping, issued a statement in which he said “in all aspects of public policy, there must be compassion and compromise”.
Dookeran said while there are pros and cons surrounding the issue of the highway, the nation should recognise Kublalsingh’s actions.
“Whether right or wrong, (it) stems from a deep conviction of a case for which he seems prepared to die. As a government, we must understand that such a fast emanates from deep spirituality and as such represents the soul of human endeavour,” Dookeran said.
Dookeran said now that the matter is receiving international attention, the government must engage in “meaningful conversations to ensure that Trinidad and Tobago is not paraded as an uncaring society in the eyes of the world”.
Another member of the coalition, the National Joint Action Committee (NJAC) last week issued a statement calling on Persad-Bissessar to meet with Kublalsingh as soon as possible.
Kublalsingh has meantime, given support to a proposal calling for the establishment of an independent technical review committee to resolve the contentious issue surrounding the highway.
The proposal, contained in a letter to Prime Minister Persad-Bissessar, was signed by the Joint Consultative Council for the Construction Industry (JCC), the Federation of Independent Trade Unions and Nongovernmental Organisations (FITUN), Women Working for Social Progress and the Trinidad and Tobago Transparency Institute (TTTI) and was endorsed by representatives of the Association of Professional Engineers, the Institute of Surveyors of Trinidad and Tobago, Trinidad and Contractors Association and the Trinidad and Tobago Institute of Architects.
It is also proposing that independent legislator Dr James Armstrong be appointed to chair a technical review committee and his report to be submitted within a three month period and binding on all stakeholders.
Government ministers speaking at the end of the weekly Cabinet meeting on Thursday said that while a “prayer” had been said for Kublalsingh’s health, the proposal had not been discussed.
“Before the Cabinet notes were brought, the entire Cabinet stood and as is customary we said a prayer. One minister was asked to pray and in our prayers we prayed for the health of Dr Kublalsingh.
“We prayed for him to take sustaining liquids and that he will be a-okay. We also commended his ‘sticktoitiveness’ and his will. The entire Cabinet would love for Dr Kublalsingh to eat so that he can continue fighting, not only for this issue but for many other issues as we move forward,” said Sports Minister Anil Roberts.
But Kublalsingh told reporters “I feel it is a very good proposal and we just have to wait and hear what the Prime Minister says about it. In the meantime we wait.
“Once that committee is properly constituted and once I see it is independent and we have participation and she undertakes to do that significant review, I would step down from the hunger strike,” he added.
Meanwhile, the High Court has adjourned to December 6, the hearing of a constitutional motion filed Kublalsingh and the HRM.
The adjournment followed an application by the State, the nature of which was not disclosed since discussions were held privately with attorneys for the parties. (CMC) Click here to receive free news bulletins via email from Caribbean360. (View sample)