Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : October 27th 2013 Contents A12
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STORY AND PHOTOS BY SHEREEN ALI
In this part three of our series looking at the
Debe-Mon Desir Highway issue, we interview Dr
Wayne Kublalsingh, activist, who joined the High-
way Re-Route Movement (HRM) in November 2011
on the residents invitation. Kublalsingh is advo-
cating for 13 communities rights to resist highway
construction in the Debe-Mon Desir area.
Last month, he lost his UWI part-time lecturing
job of 16 years, because of UWI s concern at the
possible impacts of his protest action on students.
Kublalsingh, with Debe-Mon Desir residents, has
been continuing peaceful protest action in recent
weeks---blocking bulldozers from grading lands in
the Mon Desir area. This has led to arrests and
charges laid on Kublalsingh and several residents;
they are currently out on bail.
In a separate matter, the HRM is challenging the
Government, questioning the constitutionality of
the Government s proposed actions on the Debe to
Mon Desir Highway in the High Court. The HRM
is seeking an injunction to stop the Debe to Mon
Desir segment. On October 18, in the High Court,
Justice James Aboud was expected to deliver a judge-
ment after listening to arguments by attorneys from
the State and the HRM. However, the HRM s argu-
ments took five hours, and Justice Aboud adjourned
the matter to November 8. Meanwhile, the Gov-
ernment is proceeding with construction until a
ruling is made---which could take quite some time.
Job loss and police charges have not affected
Kublalsingh s resolve to continue his protest action.
He believes a misguided public policy is propelling
the destruction of an integrated community system,
with its own viable social, economic and ecological
heritage and assets.
Q: How would you describe yourself?
A: I am an activist. In T&T, we have a fear
of challenging authority, challenging the
police, or standing up to a bulldozer. Even
big men have a fear of being arrested. How do you
combat that fear? People don t challenge the Gov-
ernment with strong, purposeful ideas, or with direct
action. So part of what I do is challenge states which
act as facilitators of global companies to fleece com-
munity resources and monetise them so it becomes
easy to transfer these assets into foreign entities or
into the hands of the "contractocracy"---local or for-
eign corporations. That s what governments facilitate
in many of these mega-projects: they facilitate theft
of local resources. They undervalue community
resources, ecological resources, social and economic
resources. They tend to not put the real value of
these resources into the accounting books.
What led you into the world of activism?
The closing of Caroni Ltd in 2002. I became
involved in that...It opened up 70,000 acres of valu-
able port land. This port land stretched along the
western coast from St Augustine to as far South as
Barrackpore, Debe, Penal and Rio Claro. Here was
an opportunity to use these lands as well as the
myriad assets of Caroni, for example, its programmes
in animal husbandry, horticulture, its research facilities,
for example in rice cultivation, its human resources,
to create a new development platform for the republic.
I organised a symposium at UWI. I invited a number
of persons who had done research into diversification
of the sugar industry. Out of this symposium, UWI
organised a Task Force and produced a paper called
The Caroni Position Paper. The paper provided a
vision for development in the areas of heavy industry,
light manufacturing, food parks, transportation, model
villages and towns, recreation, timber and fruit pro-
duction, and so on.
The government of the day looked at it and ignored
it, and went for things like smelters, a steel complex,
an industrial port in Claxton Bay and a chemical
plant. Many of these projects were following the
basic pattern of locating industries within industrial
estates and sometimes creating these estates within
communities and undervaluing the indigenous
resources which needed to be destroyed to facilitate
them. Because it is easy for politicians to do those
things. Simply bring the foreign corporations, exploit,
and you collect a rent at the end of the day.
So that is the beginning of my activism. In 2002.
It is really a revolution for authentic development.
So you have a history of being ignored by the
Well...You just realise that if you want
good development, you have to fight
for it. It s not going to just come. The
politicians are not going to give it to
you. People have to fight for it.
Would the Debe-Mon Desir High-
way not help to develop communities
by improving road access?
These communities are already devel-
oped. They have their own street sys-
tems, systems of connectivity, their
own landholding system of parceling
heritage from one generation to another,
which is very sophisticated. They have
their own business culture, their own
agrarian system, their own religious
network. This is a kind of garden city.
You wouldn t find such communities
anywhere else in the western world.
They are independent, empowered.
They are not poor by any means. They
don t ask the State, really, for any goods,
just some services (which the State still
doesn t provide).
So why disrupt that community? We
fully support the San Fernando to Point
Fortin Highway. But we do not support
a connecting highway cutting straight
through the lagoon. We are saying:
connect through empty Caroni lands.
Commons are important sources of
wealth. You should not interfere with
them glibly, as this Government is
doing. Commons are resources that
really belong to everybody, like a lagoon.
That s where you fish, get water, have
seasonal agriculture. Governments facil-
itate the capture of these resources with
projects like the Debe-Mon Desir High-
About how many people do you
The Highway Re-Route Movement
has a core group of about 90 people.
In the whole of Debe to Mon Desir the
catchment area is about 40,000, but
directly involved are 300 families. Many
feel they have no choice and no rights.
A few, because of political sympathies,
are willing to give away beautiful, beau-
tiful estates because they believe this
Government has their best interest.
And latterly, many of them are realising
that they are not getting a fair com-
pensation and they have become very
Ultimately, the Highway Re-Route
Movement represents all the people
here, because the resources of the area---
its businesses, temples, mosques,
church, road systems, agricultural lands
and the most substantial asset, the
Oropouche Lagoon, belong to every-
Do you or any of your family own
land or property in the area related
to the proposed highway project?
No. I started this because the com-
munity invited me two years ago.
Do you have any regrets about the
21-day hunger strike you did last year?
No. It helped produce the Armstrong
Report. The Armstrong Report is a
landmark document. This is a social
document produced after much sac-
rifice and struggle, and it should be
The Armstrong Report really does
give you a method, a process by which
all governments should abide when
committing themselves to these mega-
projects. These projects involve huge
expenditures and can get complex.
DEBE-MON DESIR HIGHWAY
I challenge State---Kublalsingh
Continued on Page A13
Dr Wayne Kublalsingh, during the October 3 protest
in front of the Prime Minister's office in St Clair.
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