In one of his first official acts at National Security Minister,
Jack Warner today instructed and supervised the
demolishing, by soldiers and police officers, of the Highway
Re-route Movement's protest camp in Debe.
Warner was also there when the group's leader, environmental
activist Dr Wayne Kublalsingh was arrested when
entered the campsite while it was being torn apart, and threw himself in the path of a bulldozer ripping apart a prayer room.
The group is accused of squatting on State lands.
Warner, who was accompanied by Minister in the National Security
Ministry Colin Partap, was verbally abused by many.
Some members cried and begged that he give them until noon to remove the camp. Warner stood firm and did not respond. Instead, he greeted soldiers and police officers and spoke with officials of OAS Constructura, the main contractor hired to build the $7.2 billion highway.
Kublalsingh was taken to the charge room of the San Fernando
Police Station. He may appear in court this afternoon.
Warner is planning to host a press conference on the demolition today.
Attorney senior counsel Ramesh Lawrence Maharaj is expected to
visit the protest site this afternoon, to speak on behalf of members.
Oilfields Workers' Trade Union president General Ancel Roget and leader of the Movement for Social Justice David Abdulah visited the site, condemned the action and and called for Warner's removal as National Security Minister.
Warner, who was sworn in as National Security Minister on Monday,
had several confrontations with Kublalsingh and members of the
Highway Re-Route Movement, while he was the Minister of Works and Infrastructure.
The group is opposed to the construction of the Debe to Mon Desir
segment of the Solomon Hochoy Highway extension to Point Fortin.
The protest campsite was said to be holding up construction of the highway extension to Mon Desir, costing the State millions of dollars.
On Tuesday, Kublalsingh said he knew of the plan to destroy the camp.
He had then congratulated newly-appointed Minister
of Works Emmanuel George and asked that he listen to the grouop's concerns.
Kublalsingh said he intended to write the new minister outlining
the group's reasons for protesting against the construction.
"We will write him a letter to find out what is the Government's current position.
Three months ago the prime minister did say that she will put the project on hold, as reviews it. We have been writing letters to the prime minister, asking her the status of the review, but we have not gotten a response. We want to know the status of that review," he said.
Kublalsingh had said Warner was
not concerned about the plight of members of the Highway Re-Route Movement.
"We have had enormous difficulty with Mr Warner. He has accused
us of fire-bombing, which is false. He accused us of being professionally paid protesters. He accused us of joining the OWTU to overthrow the Government and he also accused us of joining a terrorist group in Fyzabad. So I don't think that is the correct way to conduct the affairs of the country," he had said.
Kublalsingh had said "The fast came about because of Mr Warner's statements. We understand that the Government intends to come and break the camp. Every evening we have prayer service in the Muslim, Hindu, and Christian faiths asking for protection, not just for the camp but for the Oropouche lagoon and affected communities".
Shortly before 6a.m today, more than 20 soldiers based at the nearly Camp La Romaine, and more than a dozen police officers arrived at the camp site and found no more than five persons who had spent the night there. The soldiers ordered members out of the camp and began knocking it down. Warner arrived soon after and looked on as the debris was loaded onto trucks and carted away.
Kublalsingh arrived about an hour later, and rushed onto the site.
He was grabbed by soldiers, but was able to wriggle free and fell into a culvert as he was being led away. He was snatched a second time and handcuffed to a police officer.
It took three hours for the camped to be demolished. During that time, group member Elizabeth Rambharose and another activist sat at the centre of the demolition activity.
With images of the Hindu incarnations of God in hand, they prayed and sang until police officers and other group members convinced them to leave the site.