A Goon attacks a Vine

By Raffique Shah
February 24th 2008

Lakshmi MittalABOUT two weeks ago, a downright dangerous incident occurred offshore Claxton Bay, not far from where I live. Peter Vine, a UWI lecturer and environmental activist, was among a group of fishermen and nearby residents, protesting preliminary works being conducted by agents of the NEC in preparation for the reclamation of some 255 hectares of coastal land for the establishment of an industrial port.

NEC’s agents, some working on a barge a few hundred metres off the fishing depot, were conducting what appeared to be a survey of the area. Vine, who is known for dramatising his protests, had a fishing vessel take him close to a barge being used by the surveyors. He then jumped off the pirogue, swam to the barge, and was actually helped aboard by one employee (video footage would show this). Once on-deck, he appeared to be pleading with the eight-or-so men on board, to abandon their work.

From what was shown on several television stations, the activist did not lift a finger against any of the workers or operators. Suddenly, one goon grabbed Vine in a most vicious manner. Clearly a bigger man than the activist, he shoved, pushed and finally threw Vine overboard the tug. The goon continued his tirade even as Vine was able to tread water, having been thrown into the sea. I imagine Vine finally swam back to the pirogue and to safety.

What that goon did was assault Vine, not only with battery (as the law would say), but with anger that oozed from his quivering frame. To date, although the brutal assault was captured on video, no action has been taken by the police against the perpetrator. Indeed, we do not know if this excuse-for-a-human-being is a national of this country or a foreigner. One can assume that he is solid between the ears, therefore could not even understand what Vine was politely telling the crew.

As a veteran protestor in my day, I know one runs the risk of being physically abused by the police, security guards or hired goons. It’s considered par for the protest-course. But the way that goon manhandled Vine he could have killed the environmentalist, or caused him to drown. I cannot believe the police, more so Commissioner Trevor Paul, saw this violent incident captured “alive” on television and failed to lay charges.

We like to talk so much about law and order: what law, or what order, gave the goon the right to physically attack Vine? None.

If the activist committed an offence by boarding the tug, it was for some lawful authority-the police or Coast Guard-to arrest and charge him. He did not obstruct the workers. He did not abuse them. He did not assault them. He committed no crime. The police and the Government need to understand that people have a legitimate right to protest, as happens ever so often in communities where people are denied decent roads, potable water and other basics.

In this battle in Claxton Bay, Vine and Wayne Kublalsingh have taken the lead, as they did when the Alcoa plant was proposed for Cap-de-Ville. Here, they are protesting the construction of the Essar steel plant, and now a huge swath of coastline and mangrove due to be consigned to history to make way for yet another big industrial port. On this latter score, the Government needs to state why it deems it necessary for this small country to have three major ports-Port of Spain, Point Lisas, and now Claxton Bay.

When one adds the numerous smaller, dedicated ports, we probably have more berths per coastline-kilometre than any other country in the world.

That aside, there are many reasons why Essar is facing a wave of human protest, the main one being the stinking, deadly record of the Mittal mill in Point Lisas. For decades Mittal’s plant has been spewing corrosive dust in the faces of everyone, from the estate managers to the steel plant’s own employees, not to add hundreds of others who work at nearby plants. And no one-not the EMA, not government-has the backbone to read the riot act to this Indian tycoon. Workers are coughing up blood! Steel equipment in nearby plants is ‘pitted’ by DRI dust. One can only imagine what it does to human lungs and other organs.

Essar claims its mill is far cleaner than Mittal’s, and maybe it will be. But people won’t trust Essar’s owners, not until someone in Government has the balls to shut down Mittal’s operations, and tell the richest Indian in the world where to shove his rupees. Ten, twenty years down the road, when PM Manning and I are no longer around, think of the number of people who will die from the deleterious effects of that dust-bowl of a plant.

I am waiting, though, to see who in the Police Service has the guts to arrest and charge that goon who almost killed Vine. If they don’t, and someone else “outs his light”, I trust they will maintain their hands-off attitude.

3 thoughts on “A Goon attacks a Vine”

  1. Raffique Shah:
    I have a question for you Sir,was this crew a local crew or a foreign crew ?
    Was the thug who threw VINE off the Tug boat a foreinger or a local fellow ?
    If he is a foreigner then I do belive if he is convicted of assault then his immigration status shall revert to deportation ?
    Is there a Member of parliament for Claxton bay area and who is this person and what are they doing to raise this issue and see that this fellow is brought to Justice because if Mr.Vine( in the thugs opinion) committed a crime then it will have been tresspassing which was a matter for the court this fellow should have called the police not bodily snatched Mr>vine and throw him off the boat which they gave him a hand to get on board!
    Are all these intellectuals and bloggers going to allow which side they fall in the smelter issue allow an injustice to be done here or shall we here of them?

  2. Dear Mr. Shah,
    The arcticle above is extremely disturbing!!!! These “GOONS” are pretty stupid. Have they no idea that Mr. Vine was fighting for a greater good. This an important matter though but what i’d really like to look at is the environmental damage that is being done. I am a student of the University of Trinidad and Tobago with an interest in this subject parcticularly because of my environmental safety course. Could please contact me via email so we can chat some more on this topic? Unlike many ignorant people i (in Al Gore’s words) would like to know “the inconvient truth”.

  3. You know what is particularly disgusting…that this scenario always happens and the authorities dont ever do anything. I am from Cunupia and we enlisted the help of Mr. Peter Vine to assist us in a protest against the gov’t for wanting to build houses on PRIME agricultural lands. It was amazing to see how quick the police arrived to tell us that this protest wouldn’t solve anything…but when robberies and car thefts occurred in our village…the police came 2 HOURS later, and in some instances they didn’t even turn up. PS. if the protest wouldn’t solve anything…why were the police present in the first place…makes perfect sense, doesn’t it?

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