PM, Cabinet knew about demolition

…protests increase Golconda to Pt Fortin highway by $3.5m

Sunday, July 8, 2012
Anika Gumbs-Sandiford –

PeopleResidents of Debe and surrounding areas line the M1 Ring Road in Debe with their placards in a show of support for the Point Fortin to Golconda highway yesterday morning. PHOTO: RISHI RAGOONATH

Minister of National Security Jack Warner did not act on his own accord when he instructed the demolition of the Highway Re-route Movement’s camp, to allow works to resume on the $7.2 billion Point Fortin Highway. In fact, Sunday Guardian learnt that only two weeks before Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar reshuffled her Cabinet, Brazilian firm Construtora OAS Ltd had issued a $3.5 million claim against the Government for breach of the contractual agreement caused by the protesters.

Warner yesterday admitted to Sunday Guardian that at the time of the demolition, he, along with other Cabinet members, were aware of the claim. “I have copies of the claim in my possession. I knew the company is asking for more than $3 million for breach of the agreement but I did not want that to be the justification for demolishing the camp. The point is those people were occupying state lands illegally and they had to be removed,” Warner said.

The firm is demanding the additional payment for the delay of works at Seebaran Drive, caused by the Highway Re-route Movement’s protest action. Works grounded to a halt on April 21 at the construction site. The claim was submitted on June 12, citing financial losses due to ineffective or idle construction equipment and labour.

In addition, the firm is also claiming the protests caused construction to be pushed into the rainy season, which may result in further delays and additional costs. The protesters, led by environmentalist Dr Wayne Kublalsingh, had pitched a camp along the Debe route of the highway, obstructing construction and blocking equipment from entering the site for several weeks, until its recent demolition two weeks ago. The protesters are claiming that the construction poses a risk to the environment and communities would be divided.

‘Nidco failed to act’
The firm has also taken issue with the National Infrastructure Development Company’s (Nidco) handling of the matter. In its claim, the firm stated Nidco and other regulatory agencies had failed to resolve and mitigate the problem that led to the delay. In accordance with International Federation of Consulting Engineers (FIDIC) requirements, the contractor is required to submit a notice of claim with supporting documents within 42 days of a situation arising.

According to the claim, dated May 2, the firm wrote to Nidco informing them about the protesters and indicating their inability to continue works. Requesting that Nidco address the community’s issues, the firm stated, “The local community is still occupying the right of way with tents and they have ploughed the land and started growing banana and coconut trees and vegetables as a measure to demarcate the land. The contractor requested that the employer address these community issues and keep the contractor (OAS) informed.”

Citing grounds for the additional payment, the firm noted the following:
• The contractor is unable to carry on works in the area, which will impact the contract as a whole
• A lot of large construction equipment was either used ineffectively or stood idle
• Due to the delay, earthworks that should have been done in the dry season, between January 1 and May 31, will now have to be executed during the rainy season.

Kublalsingh: I will not give up the fight
Showing no remorse for his actions, Kublalsingh, in an interview yesterday, told Sunday Guardian that he had no regrets for his actions and did not intend to give up the fight. Kublalsingh said while he had not seen documentation proving the claim, he said any increase in construction cost was due to the Government ignoring the concerns of citizens.

“We advised the Government not to proceed with that section of the highway and they have refused to listen, so the Government has to bear the cost,” Kublalsingh said. Meanwhile, residents of Debe and environs came out in their numbers yesterday in support of the highway.

G: I will vigorously assert the rights of the State
Commenting on the development yesterday, Attorney General Anand Ramlogan told Sunday Guardian that the delay of the project has financial implications. “I had warned that the State’s risk exposure was quite significant, having regard to the magnitude of this billion-dollar project. The Attorney General’s office is still reeling from the financial impact of multiple claims that I am still unravelling today. The country cannot afford to simply expose itself and be vulnerable to litigation.

“I intend to, therefore, vigorously assert the rights of the State to ensure that the wider public interests and purse are protected, so the legal position of the State is not jeopardised and compromised beyond redemption.”

2 thoughts on “PM, Cabinet knew about demolition”

  1. Debe demolition my own decision—Jack

    Monday, July 9, 2012

    National Security Minister Jack Warner has denied a weekend report that suggested Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar and her Cabinet knew about the demolition of the Highway Re-route Movement’s campsite on June 27. “I have said before and I do reiterate again that I did not advise the Honourable Prime Minister nor the Cabinet before of my action and that I am prepared to rise and fall on the basis of such action,” Warner said in an e-mailed response to the Trinidad Guardian.

    The Highway Re-route Movement’s camp was demolished to allow work to resume on the $7.2 billion Point Fortin Highway. Warner admitted to receiving notification that the main contractor on the highway, Construtora OAS Ltd, was considering submitting claims for losses caused by the actions of protesters.

    However, he said neither Persad-Bissessar nor the Cabinet had received a claim for $3.5 million up to the time of the demolition of the protesters’ campsite. “I was also meticulously clear in maintaining my position that while I was aware of the exorbitant liabilities being caused by the protesters, this was not a major factor or consideration in arriving at my view that the campsite must be removed,” Warner said.

    He said his views were based on the illegality of the protesters’ action to enter State lands and to deliberately frustrate the highway construction. Warner was responding yesterday to the Sunday Guardian lead article, headlined: PM, Cabinet knew about demolition. In October 2010, Warner announced that the Government would be constructing a highway from San Fernando to Point Fortin.

    Since then, there has been a stream of protests from residents who would be affected by the construction, with most of the opposition coming from the Wayne Kublalsingh-led Highway Re-route Movement. As Minister of Works and Infrastructure, Warner met with protesters to discuss the project, but could not satisfy the protesters’ demand that the highway be re-routed.

    Following a switch in his portfolio to Minister of National Security, Warner led a joint police and army contingent to destroy a camp site erected by protesters near the highway. Protests against the highway have since resumed. On Saturday, pro-highway protesters came out in support of the Government’s plans for the Point Fortin Highway.

  2. What is up with you Government and money spending??? What about the Brian Lara Stadium ?? would you say it was the doings of another Government mishaps? You is no different I guess, only in name.
    $$ 7.2 Billion, I guess this one would have toll stations booth, you would have to start paying now to use the High ways soon in T&T. mark my words for this, it is coming, and coming soon.
    Why don’t you build another Highway in central that would run parallel with the Churchill Roosevelt Highway, from Chaguanas all the way to Sande Grande.
    Will definitely take care of the slow flow of traffic heading East.
    Jack? what does these people really want? re-location, reimbursement for houses location, well get down to it and get the problem solved.
    Would you just continue with your plans without giving heed to some of these people. La jab less and dwin them gone now. no more naked man on the horse without a head.
    People traveling now and seeing the expanded world outside.
    No re-route? no agreement? what next Mr.Jack? Would we have the flying squad circulating in every situation that would prop itself up???
    After this one, there will be a next, then a next- so the game has to go on. Dealing with issues and case. But try dealing with the issues as drugs and Rape, CRIMES…
    Crime is always up on the list, but battling crime only from the books have failed over and over again.
    US law enforcement,US Policies, US form of Committees, Briefing, Address to the Nation. Where is Little Trinidad and Tobago is heading? What’s up with this, so small in Geography and certainly in Population.
    Independent, what does it means:Thinking for yourself, or letting others do the thinking for you? Where are we in this one, are we Independent to take proper charge of affairs and other issues that comes around.
    I hear about Independence, but from what? Same like America they take heed to the day of Independence, but the question remains: are we really Independent. Independent from who? and What?or are we becoming pawns in the Big Game: Debts, Debts,Debts…on who’s account tax payers or the Foolers.If the Country have all this wealth and Finances, Why not arrive at first class status, why not help out the unfortunates.
    What is the next big project that is coming out after this highway?
    Give the People Health Care, You have already given out free Computers in Schools, Education has taken on a good move with free Tertiary Education, There is need for some good Trade Schools now, Medicine is crippling people, Food Cost.
    Mr. Government these are but a few of the things that will bring up the proper status of the people.Oh Jack, the man of all trades come on now…
    A look at the Privy Counsel, and the interpretation of our laws. A look at the very food you eat, the drink you drink, the clothes you wear, the Movies we watch, the Songs we sing to, the Fashion at large.
    Only the Monkey break he back for a piece of Pommorac

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