Date: February 1st 2018
The Fishermen and Friends of the Sea (FFOS) considers Minister Rohan Sinanan’s statement that the injunction granted by the Court in the interest of justice is costing the State $1M per day to be disgraceful, mischievous and prejudicial conduct.
FFOS filed its claim on 29th September 2017. At that time, no contract had been awarded to KALLCO, which Mr. Sinanan has publicly admitted is owned by his family.
Mr. Sinanan knew that there was a strong possibility that the Court would be asked to grant an injunction to stop any works if the Government started construction work while the claim was pending. Respect for the honourable Court and the rule of law mandated that the Government “hold its hand” until the Court had the opportunity to adjudicate on our case. After all, an environmentally sensitive, highly protected and strict scientific reserve containing endemic, rare, threatened and environmentally species was likely to be irreversibly and irreparably damaged and destroyed.
Common sense and financial prudence demanded that the Government not rush to engage KALLCO whilst the case was pending, but instead show some respect for Law and Order and the legitimate concerns which FFOS have raised about this imminent environmental massacre.
The relevant timeline is as follows: 1. June 22nd 2017- CEC granted by the EMA 2. July 3rd 2017 – Document placed on the National Register 3. September 12th 2017- Pre-action letter sent notifying the Government that FFOS intend to challenge grant of CEC 4. September 29th 2017- FFOS files its claim also seeking immediate interim relief 5. On Oct 5th 2017, MOWT council indicate to Court that no contract had yet been signed with KALLCO? 6. December 8th 2017- Ministry files affidavits in response to FFOS (taking 3 months to do so) 7. December 20th 2017- Contract signed with KALLCO.
It is clear from the above timeline that the Government hastily signed the contract to engage KALLCO and start construction in the face of Judicial authority. The burning questions for Mr Sinanan and our Prime Minister are therefore:
1. Given the daily lament that the government does not have any money, why does Mr Sinanan rush to sign the contract with KALLCO in light of the strong possibility that the Court would grant an injunction to protect the Aripo Savannas until the case could be tried and determined?
2. Did Minister Sinanan not know that he was putting taxpayers money at risk by allowing the government to contract KALLCO to start works in case the Court granted an injunction?
3. How does Mr Sinanan know it is costing taxpayer $1M per day when no significant works have been done because of the injunction?
4. Is the Government paying KALLCO for work it is NOT doing, and if so why?
5. Did Mr Sinanan not consider the possibility of this exorbitant cost to the taxpayers before he gave the instruction for his family owned business to start the highway construction notwithstanding the fact that our case was pending?
Different figures are being bandied about by the State. Minister Sinanan said it is $1M per day, the Ministry’s lawyers said $10M per week. In KALLCO’s affidavit they said in 2 weeks they spent approximately $3.5M, or $250,000 per day. Which one is it?
Why the different figures? Is the Minister not aware of the true cost of the project or is it a brazen attempt to prejudice and influence the Court to remove the injunctive protection and rule against FFOS and the mandated protection of the strict scientific reserve?
FFOS supports road connectivity and is not in any way opposed to national developmental providing it does not violate the sanctity and protection of the Environmentally Sensitive Species and Area Rules, does not defy the National Environment Policy (NEP) and is in compliance with the Environment Management (EM)Act.
Minister Sinanan needs to be reminded that FFOS is not a ‘one man show’, and have been recognized by the Privy Council as a “non-profit organisation, concerned with the protection of the environment in Trinidad and Tobago” and with “an impressive record of some ten years of giving advice, guidance and assistance to the national community.”
Furthermore Minister Sinanan knows that our Corporate Secretary is not in any way related by marriage or blood, or in any way affiliated with the namesake Aboud’s who are involved in the Water Park in Chaguaramas.
FFOS is apolitical and is not influenced by ethnic, family, gender, creed, class or corporate bias.
FFOS continues to be an unencumbered advocate for voiceless communities.
Terrance Beddoe President Fishermen and Friends of the Sea