The Prime Minister made this appeal after declaring that she will not meet with Kublalsingh and rejected claims by him that she broke any promise to halt work on the extension of the Solomon Hochoy Highway from Debe to Mon Desir. She reiterated that the highway will proceed as planned.
Addressing a Christmas luncheon she hosted for the media at the Diplomatic Centre in St Ann’s, even as Kublalsingh continued his strike outside her office in St Clair, Persad-Bissessar said the spirit of Christmas and goodwill associated with it, moved her to, “make mention of the personal grief I feel on the self-inflicted suffering of Wayne Kublalsingh.”
Reiterating that Kublalsingh’s health remains a concern to her, the Prime Minister said, “What is also a concern to me is development of the nation I was elected to lead. Wayne chooses to deprive himself of food and water but as Prime Minister, I cannot choose to deprive generations of the nation’s citizens of the development which the Solomon Hochoy Highway Extension would bring.”
As government ministers and parliamentarians applauded her, Persad-Bissessar turned her attention to Kublalsingh’s family who have been accompanying him during his daily hunger strike since last week Thursday.
“Therefore in the spirit of the times, Christmas time, and out of compassion, I again make an appeal to Wayne’s dear parents Ray and Vilma, his wife, his brothers and sisters to take on their personal duty and obligation, parental and family wise, for the action of their beloved son and not to transfer this parental duty to the State.”
Persad-Bissessar declared that neither she nor her administration would bow to the demand of Kublalsingh and the Highway Re-Route Movement to stop the $7.2 billion highway extension project. “I cannot favour any one group or I cannot allow fear to control my actions, “she said. She proceeded to systematically debunk each of the allegations Kublalsingh and his group made against her and Government about the project.
On Kublalsingh’s demand for her to meet with him, which he subsequently withdrew, Persad- Bissessar said, “Mr Kublalsingh is insisting from the very start that he does not wish to meet with the PM. In fact, Wayne has made it clear on more than one occasion, he continues to do so up to today, that he has no desire to see me.”
Given this fact, the Prime Minister told her audience: “So respectfully I ask you to understand that failure to meet with him, is not of my making but his refusal to meet with me.” She then dismissed Kublalsingh’s claim that she reneged on a promise to stop work on the project pending a review by a technical committee as “a falsehood.”
She recalled that after meeting with Kublalsingh and members of his movement back in March she, “promised and did suspend work on the Mon Desir portion of the highway project pending deliberations and the review of a technical committee which was appointed.”
Persad-Bissessar reminded her audience of mainly journalists that the movement, “walked out of several meetings” held by the Works Minister and the technical team. “When finally a report was made on the evaluation that included compromises based upon the group’s views, the results were again rejected by the Highway Re-Route Movement.
“At this stage, we simply could not give into the demands of Wayne Kublalsingh and his group to stop a project that would benefit hundreds of thousands of citizens for generations to come.”
The Prime Minister added she has been further advised that “any halting of the project could see the Government being sued by the contractors (Brazilian firm Construtora OAS) who have contractual obligations to meet.”
“So as Prime Minister what am I expected to do? Simply give in to his demands to protect his life and give up the livelihood and future of hundreds of thousands of others who want the development but choose not to protest in that fashion in favour of it?”
Describing her government as “the most scrutinised administration in TT’s political history to date,” she said Attorney General Anand Ramlogan is currently reviewing the “now archaic defamation laws” in TT with a view to “bring them more in line with international best practice.”