Standing Firm for Our Beliefs


I have always admired those amongst us who have had the courage to stand up for their beliefs.  Especially those who stand up for a belief that may at first be unpopular.  I admire those who stand up when they personally have nothing to gain from so doing.  A former neighbour once suggested that I avoid writing about political topics.  I obviously did not heed this advice as I believe part of the responsibility of any citizen in a vibrant democracy is to engage with the issues at hand.  Failure to engage with the issues is tantamount to a slap in the face of our forefathers who dreamed of the day when we would have the ‘voice’ we have today.

So most of the people I spend time with are passionate about some social / political / environmental / economic / spiritual issue.  They know that there is more to life than the regular self-gratifying distractions and pursuits.  I am lucky to encounter almost daily, people who are unafraid to face big questions and embrace big issues.  To me, this makes for a life worth living.

With this in mind, I turn my attention to what is happening in Trinidad.  At the time of writing, the impasse between Dr Kublalsingh’s group and the government showed no end in sight.  In fact, it seems as if the government is happy to wait until the good Doctor dies so they can proceed.  For those who are unfamiliar with the case, Dr Wayne Kublalsingh, is a 53 year old environmental activist and University lecturer who holds a PhD from Oxford University.  He is conducting a hunger strike and has vowed to continue his fast on behalf of the Highway Reroute Movement until the government “keeps its promise” to agree to an independent technical evaluation of the TT$7.2 billion-dollar highway from San Fernando to Point Fortin and to halt road works until the evaluation is complete.

There appears to be a battle for hearts and minds raging with both sides releasing sometimes conflicting information.  From what I can piece together, Dr Kublalsingh’s Highway Re-route Movement never contested the highway from San Fernando to Point Fortin.  The hunger strike is only against the Debe to Mon Desir section of the Point Fortin Highway.  It is noteworthy that the highway between San Fernando to Point Fortin is 27 miles long, with a budgeted cost of TT$7.2 billion, but the Debe to Mon Desir highway is just 9.1 miles, with a budget of TT$5 billion.   This disproportionately expensive segment of the highway is due to the Government choosing a route through environmentally sensitive lagoon swampland and having to relocate affected communities.US Tax Singapore

The Re-route Movement’s proposal allows for a much shorter highway to pass through relatively flat state lands, avoiding the swamp lands entirely, with link roads to the highway.  Despite this available alternative and the worryingly high cost at a time of economic austerity, the government has refused to accept that proposal.  I have never met Dr Kublalsingh but if he survives, I would surely like to speak with him.  In an age where so many are obsessed with the pursuit of fame and fortune, he stands like a beacon of hope to me.  If he does not survive, I know that from the groundswell of support particularly online, his sacrifice will not be in vain.

For the government however, this issue is just another one of many in which there appears to be a lack of transparency and conflicting versions of events that serve only to raise suspicions.  Regardless, it is clear to even a casual observer that there is a lack of transparency and insufficient public consultation in this matter.  Furthermore, concerns are being voiced that the government’s enthusiasm for this highway project is reminiscent of the previous UNC government’s enthusiasm for the infamous Airport project.  The report of the government’s enquiry into corruption in the Airport project has yet to be made public and the US government’s extradition request for certain high profile political financiers continues to be ignored.

Despite its best efforts to explain its position, the government of Trinidad and Tobago is facing a credibility problem.  Even the most devoted apologist for the present administration is unable to defend the depth of corruption suggested by the Section 34 fiasco.  If certain allegations surrounding this Section 34 fiasco are true, it may be the single most corrupt act in 50 years of the nation’s independence.  I hope and pray that the decision makers remember their original pledge – to ‘serve the people, serve the people, serve the people’.

Despite our current challenges, I continue to have the audacity of hope that we will all enjoy a brighter tomorrow.  Read more on derrenjoseph.blogspot.com 

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