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Appeal Court denies bid to stop work on highway
The Highway Re-route Movement (HRM) has lost its third successive legal bid to stop construction work on the controversial Debe to Mon Desir segment of the Point Fortin Highway. As the group’s leader Dr Wayne Kublalsingh marked the seventh day of his second hunger strike yesterday, its lawyers were busy at the Hall of Justice, Port-of-Spain, attempting to convince the Court of Appeal to halt construction, pending the determination of its Privy Council appeal for a binding injunction.
After hearing lengthy submissions from lawyers representing the HRM and the Attorney General, appellate judges—Peter Jamadar, Maureen Rajnauth-Lee and Prakash Moosai—rejected the group’s request. While State attorneys did not oppose the group’s application for permission to take its legal challenge to the United Kingdom-based appellate court, they firmly rejected the HRM’s last-ditched bid for interim relief from the local courts.
Instead, Senior Counsel Deborah Peake suggested that the group file a similar application before the Privy Council, as it had already been refused by both the High Court and Court of Appeal. “They must establish the appeal has a good prospect of success. We are saying they can’t,” Peake said.
Peake also questioned the need for the injunction, as she noted Kublalsingh and the members of his group listed in the lawsuit could not prove any of their properties were under threat of demolition. “There is no evidence that any properties or homes is or are threatened,” Peake stated. During the appeal, the panel initially appeared amenable to accede to the HRM’s request, as it claimed that one of its member’s house was located on the proposed site of the Siparia interchange.
However, their minds were changed when Peake consulted with project managers and reported that the woman’s house was not located on the site of the interchange. The group first filed for the injunction in September last year, after they claimed preparation work on the site had been ramped up. They are claiming that if the project is allowed to continue, it will be completed before the end of their overall lawsuit, rendering it useless.
In May, the application was dismissed by High Court Judge James Aboud, who is also hearing their pending substantive lawsuit, in which they are alleging that the highway will breach their constitutional right to enjoyment of their properties.
While he stated that there were serious issues to be tried in the substantive case, including an alleged legitimate expectation that a report from a group of professionals, led by former Independent Senator Dr James Armstrong would be considered by government, Aboud criticised the group for its delay in seeking the relief, as he noted he had suggested the option several times since the lawsuit was first filed in 2012.
Aboud’s decision was eventually upheld by the Court of Appeal.
AG: no backing down
In a press release yesterday, the office of the Attorney General said it would continue to defend the project when the case reached the Privy Council. While the release said Attorney General Anand Ramlogan respected the group’s right to take the issue to the country’s highest appeal court, it maintained the project was an integral part of Government’s plan to improve connectivity and interconnectivity to a number of communities located in the path of the highway.
“The Attorney General as the guardian of the Constitution shall continue to represent and protect the interests of all of those segments of society whose daily life is affected by congestion, traffic and underdevelopment,” the release added.
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