Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : June 30th 2013 Contents interview
www.guardian.co.tt SUNDAY, JUNE 30, 2013
Q: Mr Sinanan, do you
have the perception that
the average citizen is not
aware of the functioning and oper-
ations of the Environmental Com-
A: (In his office, corner St
Vincent and New Streets,
afternoon) Well it is not a perception,
it is a fact they are not aware.
Isn t that a failure of the com-
mission to project itself to the wider
community? And how do the peo-
ple benefit from the existence of
To some extent I would say yes,
the court could have projected itself
to the national community and made
it aware of its existence.
What sort of action can people
seek by way of redress in this court?
Basically any environmental issue,
any breach of the environmental leg-
islation, like loud noise from bars,
such as the situation in the city
recently where it was reported that
the noise level was so high residents
could not enjoy the peace and com-
fort of their homes.
To the uninitiated, exactly what
is the Environmental Commission?
It is a civil court with all the pow-
ers of the high court which maintains
that balance between development,
youth and the environment. We try
to maintain that balance to ensure
the environment is protected as well
as peoples needs and rights are also
protected, to find that perfect divid-
Protecting the environment, but
daily we read and hear of varied
attacks on the environment and
isn t this another aspect of the com-
mission s failure to...?
It is not the duty, the function or
the jurisdiction of the commission
to go out there and force people to
bring matters to the commission.
We cannot do that because if we do
we become a part of the proceedings,
and then you cannot be the litigant
and judge in your own court.
It is for the public to bring matters
to be heard before the commission,
an independent body which weighs
the facts and then make a determi-
nation in the best interest of the
You have been in the post almost
one month now. Have you deter-
mined what aspect of the commis-
sion s operations could be enhanced
to make it more accessible to the
I think once we make the public
more aware of the existence of this
organisation and its functions,
instead of frustrating themselves
wondering what they can do, they
would avail themselves of the serv-
ices we offer here.
Mr Sinanan, from where you sit,
do you think the average Trinbag-
onian is concerned about the envi-
ronment as we ought to be?
This is not a simple question. (A
reflective nod of his head) Most cit-
izens are concerned about the envi-
ronment to the extent that it would
impact on them personally. We,
however, have some citizens who
are in fact concerned about it in a
general sense, with the global impact
and the national
But by and large more
than half our population will only
be concerned in a personal capacity
if they are affected.
If you ask somebody in South
about the mining situation in Sangre
Grande, what are you talking about?
You go to Sangre Grande and ask a
person about chicken farming in
South, what are you talking about?
And that is what we have found:
people are concerned only when it
personally affects them.
Some people are of the opinion
that the court is an arm of the EMA.
Is that so?
No. One of the reasons for the
mix-up is that the commission was
created under the Environmental
Act, which is the same legislation
which created the Environmental
So save and except for that, there
is no connection between the EMA
and the commission, but the EMA
will bring their matters to the court
for adjudication or mediation.
Would you, Mr Sinanan, like to
see legislation enhanced where
people are more severely penalised
for violating the provision in the
Clevon, generally the public has
no regard for sanctions and it would
be more a case of enforcing existing
legislation rather than creating new
For example we have the Litter
Act and nobody pays attention to
that; you are driving down the road
and you d see other people throwing
refuse out their vehicle to the detri-
ment of other road users.
Isn t it paradoxical, Mr Sinanan,
that we would ignore our laws here
but when we go abroad we fall in
line with our host country s rules
Policemen here will ignore what
they may deem minor infractions
like urinating in public, but if you
do that abroad you will be penalised
when you are caught. You are not
going to cross a street unless the
traffic lights tell you do to so or you
would use a zebra crossing, unlike
the situation here.
Is it that we are inherently indis-
ciplined or the authorities allow us
to get away with disobeying the
law because the laws are not being
enforced in a more meaningful
It may have started with the pow-
ers that be, but it has now become
part of our culture, unfortunately.
And we see breaking the rule as being
Some people seem to get kicks
by deliberately running afoul of
rules and regulations?
Yes. And the arrogance with which
they do it---you know, when they
break a traffic light and you pop your
horn because you are doing the right
thing, they would abuse you and
even beat you as if you are doing
the wrong thing.
The powers that be have created
the legislation to ensure that anti-
social behaviour is not tolerated but
they cannot come and personally
So we have a twofold scenario:
one, a culture and two, lack of
rule the norm
Policemen here will ignore what they
may deem minor infractions like urinating
in public, but if you do that abroad you will
be penalised when you are caught. You are
not going to cross a street unless the traf-
fic lights tell you do to so or you would use
a zebra crossing, unlike the situation here.
Head of the Environmental Commission:
Trinbagonians are not paying the kind of
attention to the environment as they ought
So says newly appointed chairman of the
Environmental Commission, attorney
Chaitram Sinanan, 50, former head of the
Legal Aid and Advisory Authority. While
saying citizens are not observing
measures to protect the environment,
he argues the answer to this is in the
enforcement of existing legislation.
" Continued on Page A11
Chairman of the Environmental
Commission Chaitram Sinanan.
PHOTO: SHIRLEY BAHADUR
with Clevon Raphael
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