Published On: Mon, Dec 3rd, 2012

Government to discuss proposal to deal with Trinidad highway project

PORT-OF-SPAIN, Trinidad – The Joint Consultative Council for the construction industry (JCC) says while it is disappointed with the response of the Trinidad and Tobago government to its proposals to end a 17 day hunger strike by environmentalist, Dr. Wayne Kublalsingh, it is still prepared to meet “at short notice at any prior time” to discuss the construction of the controversial highway south of here.

The JCC said Friday it had received a response from Works Minister Emmanuel George after its 48 hour deadline indicating that he was prepared to meet with the group and other non-government bodies on Monday to discuss the highway project that has forced Kublalsingh, a University of the West Indies (UWI) lecturer to go on a hunger strike in protest.

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.

The proposal , contained in a letter to Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar, was signed by the 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.

George in his letter to JCC chairman Afra Raymond, said that the matter had been referred to him as the line minister with responsibility for the highway and invited the JCC and its affiliates to the meeting on Monday.

"Please let me know if you agree with that suggested date and time for the meeting," according to the letter signed by the minister.

But the JCC said it was not impressed George’s response adding that it did not reflect the urgency of the situation.

"Your letter proposes a meeting on this matter at your office on Monday, December 3, at 11 a.m. In our view, your proposal does not reflect the sheer urgency now evident in this situation. Please note that my colleagues and I remain ready, willing and able to meet with your team at short notice at any prior time.

"The JCC remains committed to the timely, transparent and independent review of this section of this ongoing highway project, so we await your urgent response," Raymond said in his response to George.

Meanwhile, Kublalsingh, who says he is "feeling more tired" than before, has promised to continue his vigil outside of the Office of the Prime Minister on Monday.

"I am getting very faint more often. I have to often go to the ambulance and relax," he told reporters, adding that while his blood remained stable, his doctors were concerned.

"I have seen five doctors so far and there is a risk of multiple-organ failure and kidney dysfunction and heart and liver," he said.

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