By Dr. Kwame Nantambu
November 25, 2012
At the outset, it must be stated that the crucial mistake that has been made is that the typical Euro-centric analysis of this issue has become the norm. Indeed, it must be pointed out that the Euro-centric analysis has only focused on the results/effects of this issue/problem, namely, the Re-Route Movement’s tents, clashes with law enforcement officers and government ministers and the life-threatening hunger strike by its leader Dr. Wayne Kublalsingh.
The salient reality is that either by accident or design, the crucial/vital variable that has been left out is the root cause of the government’s public policy decision. In this regard, this is precisely what this Afri-centric analysis will focus on.
Trinbagonians need to clearly understand that this democratically-elected government correctly utilized/invoked the Law of Eminent Domain to construct the highway. That’s it.
Truth Be Told: The term “eminent domain” came to the fore via the “legal treatise” of Dutch jurist Hugo Grotius in 1625. The Law of Eminent Domain empowers any government “to take private property for public use by a state, municipality or private person or corporation authorized to exercise functions of public character, following the payment of just compensation to the owner of that property.”
Furthermore, “the property is taken for public or civic use or in some cases economic development. The most common uses of (private) property taken by eminent domain are for government buildings and other facilities, public utilities, highways and railroads”— emphasis on highways, period.
Trinbagonians need to clearly understand that the international law of eminent domain also “delegates eminent domain power to certain public and private companies(such as NIDCO)… only if its taking will be for a ‘public use'”.
And “the most common example(s) of a ‘public use’ is the taking of land (plus houses, businesses, churches, etc) to build or expand a public road or highway”— emphasis on highway.
The bottom-line is very simple, namely, the People’s Partnership government of T&T has broken absolutely no law, period. That’s it. Furthermore, the government did not get its authority/power from the Constitution of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago. The government got its authority/power from the international law of eminent domain.
Ergo, Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar was perfectly and legally correct when she stated : “I have a duty to the nation”. The fact of the matter is that the law of eminent domain authorizes any Prime minister to execute public policy decisions in order to protect, defend and maximize the interests of the “public good” — any first year law student knows this.
In this regard, the general public should applaud Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar for exhibiting maximum “fortified” leadership in her resolute, stern but compassionate “Mother to Mother” letter to Mrs. Vilma Kublalsingh to the extent that her son’s protest will not stop the construction of the highway. This represents leadership at the zenith of responsible government macro economic decision-making process— sans humanite.
Truth Be Told: Democracy serves to protect the rights of the majority while adult chupidness and narrow minded selfishness only seek to serve the interests of the minority— power to the people, not an individual; and that’s the way it is.
The fact of the matter is that public policy decisions must never be determined and/or compromised by individualistic, simplistic, altruistic emotionalism, sympathy and opportunism publicly displayed by disparate opposition entities.
Public policy decisions must always be formulated and implemented to maximize the “public good.” As such, the Prime Minister is perfectly correct not to meet with Dr. Kublalsingh. Her government’s decisions stands on perfect international law grounds and if she were to make that decision, then, she would be setting a very dangerous and intractable precedent.
If Dr. Kublalsingh as a grown man with a Ph.D. degree chooses to endanger his own life per a hunger strike, then, the onus is on him alone to explain his decision if and when he meets his creator. That’s not the responsibility of the PP government.
The fact of the matter is that the Minister of Communications has already put in the public domain that “These are the Facts” and that the government “has given them(Re-Route Movement opponents/activists) the chance to speak” and be heard— what’s the problem?
Facts do not lie—human beings do.
More power to the Prime Minister. She has stoically and professionally exemplified the “public use” in our democracy. She must never give in to the puerile attempt by any private citizen to undermine and obfuscate public policy decisions.
In the final analysis, the specifics of the international law of eminent domain legally give the power to the democratically elected government of Trinidad and Tobago to effectuate this vital multi-faceted economic development highway construction project. The multiplier effects are tremendous for all citizens in its way. In the long-run, everyone will benefit; do not let short-term myopia spoil our vision.
Shem Hotep (“I go in peace”) .
Dr. Kwame Nantambu is a part-time lecturer at Cipriani College of Labour and Co-operative Studies.