We share the aspirations of most of the people who live or work in the southwest peninsula, that they need and deserve a decent road to Point Fortin and through the districts of Debe, Fyzabad and Siparia. Indeed the highway, promised since 1981, and repeated as a “project in the pipeline” in Budget Speeches over the past 30 years, had been supported by every political party which governed the country during this period. And its construction has been demanded, like the proposed Point Fortin Hospital, by the people of Point Fortin, Cedros, and surrounding communities.
The proposed construction, along a route apparently decided before the current government took office, seems to have the support of the majority of people in the areas to be served, and through which the highway will pass. We acknowledge that there is a group of people whose homes and lands will be acquired for the project, who are objecting to the route. And of course we acknowledge their right to object and to protest, within the confines of the law. Many people of Diego Martin had to give up their home to make way for the Diego Martin highway and even today many are doing the same so that the highway can be widened. The law of the land gives the State the right to acquire private lands for public purposes, and the State must compensate persons whose lands they acquire. If no such law existed we would still be in the donkey cart era.
But while we must recognise the rights of individuals and groups, we must also acknowledge the will and the rights of a majority of citizens, and indeed of the State, in matters such as this. There can be no doubt in anyone’s mind at this stage but that the highway will be built along the route selected many years ago, and not disputed by any previous government. The question for those in the Highway Re-route Movement whose homes or lands are to be acquired is the question of compensation, not in our minds, any question of stopping the highway construction. But we are also aware that legal action has begun, with a view to stopping the construction, so we accept that the courts may differ with our opinion here.
But leaving the legal issues to be resolved elsewhere, we return to Dr Kublalsingh’s hunger strike. In his ongoing fast he stands alone, not even the people for whom he is fighting are joining him in any way other than calling on the Government to act to end the fast. And of course, we have a passing parade of well-fed political ghouls stopping by to be photographed with Dr Kublalsingh. We would like to hear which of these, from various political parties and entities, are opposed to the construction of the highway along the contracted route?
In our view, there is nothing that the Government should do, either in terms of re-routing the highway, or in the Prime Minister “meeting” Dr Kublalsingh, in order to end the hunger strike. Dr Kublalsingh has undertaken a protest on behalf of other people. He is doing great harm to himself, and to his ability in the future to serve the nation in areas where the nation will support him, as it has in the past.
In fact Dr Kublalsingh’s many visitors of high standing should inform him of the startling incidence (14 percent) of attempted suicide among teenagers in Trinidad and Tobago as reported by the Global School Based Student Health Survey in a seminar held here this week. What example is Dr Kublalsingh sending to our young people?
Your mission is futile, Dr Kublalsingh. Please do not sacrifice yourself on this altar. Neither you, nor the country will benefit.