Guest Column: Wayne's Way, the Highway, and other Take-Aways...

by Christian Hume ( A Pantomime Guest Columnist)
on Thursday, November 22, 2012 at 7:51pm ·

Like everybody else, I've watched with rapt interest the unfolding saga of Dr. Wayne Kublalsingh's hunger strike. Like everyone else, I'm not exactly sure what is the reaons behind this hunger strike. You see, when Wayne first started fasting, his stated reason was because Kamla refused to meet him as promised. Then the reason shifted to being because Kamla promised to stop work until certain conditions were met, and now these are the minimum conditions he listed to the Opposition Leader before he would break his fast - "...the announcement of a multi-component technical group with some element of independent professional/technical, input, detailed to review the alternatives...." When the reason for the fast evolves from "meeting the Prime Minister" to "the announcement of a multi-component technical group", what is the Prime Minister supposed to do??


That aside, as a native of the area under the direct orbit of the Debe - Mon Desir stretch, let me make it unequivocally clear to all and sundry that I WANT that stretch. I want if BADLY. The ability to drive to Port-of-Spain without passing on the South Trunk Road will make sense only to those of us who have lived with the increasing burden of traffic along that road. Up to when I left Presentation College in 1996, I could get to school on time for 8:00am if I caught the maxi "Black Diamond" which usually passed my house around 7:15 to 7:20am every morning. Today, if I were DRIVING my own vehicle, I would have to leave home by 6:30am to be SURE of getting to school on time, and this from a point that is just FIFTEEN MINUTES' drive from San Fernando if there is no traffic on the road. So you can imagine what people from Point Fortin have to go through, being a good 45 minutes' drive from San Fernando on a clear road. I won't attempt to describe in detail the woe people from Siparia, Penal, and Fyzabad, because I'm not from those areas - except to say that when they too decide to use the South Trunk road to get to San Fernando - it makes life much more difficult for people like me and the people coming from Point Fortin.


I also wish to make it unequivocally clear that while I want the Debe - Mon Desir stretch, I remain resolutely opposed to the secrecy, nepotism, and corruption that seems to be part of the mix right now. Unconfirmed figures are popping up on facebook that seem to suggest that the cost per mile to build that stretch os way above and beyond anything that obtains anywhere else in the world. As a nation, we need to ask ourselves a collective "Why"?? Is it because of the corruption that I just alluded to, is it becase the highway's propodes path includes taking it THROUGH the Oropouche Lagoon as opposed to AROUND it?? What's the reason?? If at the end of it all, this issue of cost is not interrogated, we would have missed a major opportunity to continue the process of fighting back against the systemic corruption that has bedeviled all admininstrations of this country and kept us back from being the leading beacon in the WORLD that we can be.


In a strange twist of irony, I am personally happy that Mrs. Persad-Bissessar is the Prime Minister who has to deal with the highway in its present stage, and not Mr. Manning or Dr.Rowley. This is yet another opportunity for UNC supporters to interrogate the propensity of their representatives to flip-flop on major issues depending on which side of the Speaker's face is closer to them in the Parliament Chamber. We recall Panday's flip-flop on the Carribbean Court of Justice some years ago, having opposed it in Opposition and then going on to continue with it while in Government. Today we are treated with the spectacle of Dr. Kublalsingh, having been utterly consistent in his positions with respect to the Smelter, the TCL matter in Claxton Bay, and the Debe - Mon Desir stretch of highway; going to bed in a political threesome with Kamla and Moonilal on the night of May 24, 2010, only to wake up on the morning of May 25, 2010 to find them both scrambling to shove him off the bed. How long will UNC supporters continue to put up with this level of flip-flopping?? Kamla early in her tenure as PM proclaimed Roodal Moonilal as her heir apparent, but based on the evidence of his stiff-necked flip flop on the Debe - Mon Desir stretch of highway, if Roody is the best the UNC can come up with, then the UNC, and the entire country by extension, is in a pretty deep cesspool. Can we use this Highway impasse as another opportunity to interrogate ourselves as a country and start holding our leaders to a higher standard??


As a native of one of the affected areas, I can say with an authority that people who are not from the area cannot possess, that Kublalsingh's Re-Route is nonsense. However, this matter has long since ceased to be just about the technical details of the "Re-Route". There are many questions that need to be answered. Why did Kublalsingh reject the findings of the technical review implemented by the government?? Why have the findings of this review not been made available to members of the public?? Why is this stretch of highway being made to pass THROUGH the Oropouche Lagoon instead of around it?? Why does the HRRM not seem to have a problem with the decimation of the very same Oropouche Lagoon to facilitate their proposed re-route through the Mosquito Creek?? Why does this stretch of Highway have to cost so much more than any other highway anywhere in the world?? Why has the process of awarding contracts for this stretch of highway been so shrouded in secrecy?? Why have Roodal Moonilal and Kamla Persad-Bissessar been given a free pass to perform a naked about-turn from opposing the Highway when the PNM was in government, to suddenly insisting on it now that the UNC forms the government?? Why are the views of the residents of Point Fortin, Erin, Cedros, Buenos Aires, Penal, Siparia, Fyzabad, and surrounding areas not being courted as aggresively as people are tuning in to Kublalsingh and the HRRM?? Why are the people who actually want the Highway not being as vocal about their want and need for the Highway??


Take it Away!!




While I was doing this note, the Higway Re-Route Movement issued the following clarification on my wall of the reasons for Dr. Kublalsingh's hunger strike:



"...Dr. Wayne Kublalsingh never asked to MEET with the PM. The reason for this is that we HAVE met with her. The aim of the hunger strike, stated many times by Dr. Kublalsingh on several occasions to the press in my presence, was to get the PM to honour her promise to put works on "hold" as she put it until a review was done. You see, in the 2-3 meetings with the PM and/or Ministry of Works/NIDCO since March of this year, the Movement has never seen a Technical report, Cost-Benefit analysis or Hydrological report from the Govt, all of which we requested and never received. We therefore ask "what review was done, and if so, where is it?".."