TRINIDAD – T&T PM stands her ground in controversial highway project
PORT OF SPAIN – Even as hunger striker Dr Wayne Kublalsingh is now bedridden and talking about death, Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar remains resolute in her decision that the Debe to Mon Desir leg of the Point Fortin Highway will be constructed. The PM revealed her unbending stance in her address at the closing night of Divali Nagar in Chaguanas on Wednesday night. Speaking on the Nagar’s theme of “Shiva” a Hindu god who represents the reabsorbing principle, she said for some things to take place some must be destroyed. She said while she promoted the use of consensus in policy decisions, it was also important that citizens who disagreed with certain actions of the Government abide by the law.
Persad-Bissessar said it was disturbing that the Highway Re-route Movement (HRM) was unwilling to abide with the rulings of the court. On three occasions, the court ruled in favour of the continuation of the highway project. Kublalsingh was unable to continue his fast outside the Prime Minister’s Office in St Clair on Tuesday. A T&T Guardian report on Wednesday showed an emaciated Kublalsingh lying on a bed at his D’Abadie home. He said he was too weak to continue the strike at the St Clair camp and spoke about death and mortality.
Persad-Bissessar remarked on how many civil society groups had latched on to the HRM’s cause because of their own differences of opinion. She said no leader and no government in T&T have gone the democratic distance she and the People’s Partnership have gone. “I have tried to govern with conviction, strength and, at times, compassion, but at all times for the benefit of the country.
“This is the light I have lit. Let it burn forever and let no one in the future extinguish that light,” she said. Shifting to the Divali Nagar, the PM commended the National Council on Indian Culture (NCIC) for elevating the status of Divali as a festival. She said it was a special time in the life of the organisation which is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year.
Persad-Bissessar said it was also heart-warming to see the number of young artistes performing on the Nagar stage. She congratulated the NCIC for expanding Divali Nagar to the Caribbean and North America. Jamaican Rachel Beisray who won the 2014 Divali Nagar queen competition was the “first Caricom queen of Divali Nagar”, she said. The NCIC, even with its limited resources, has contributed to the resurgence of Indian culture in Guadeloupe and other international countries, the PM added.
She gave a cheque of $2 million to the NCIC to continue its work. NCIC president Deokienanan Sharma, receiving it onstage, said it cost the organisation upwards of $5 million to stage the annual nine-day event. He said the NCIC does not charge an entrance fee and the $2 million will help them pay their electricity and other bills. Persad-Bissessar, reminding Sharma that he spoke about the promotion of the festivals of other groups in T&T, said she will continue to support all, including Eid, Emancipation and the observances of the Baptists.