Who is raiding our treasury?

Date: February 3rd 2018

Dear Editor/Newsroom,

Fishermen and Friends of the Sea (FFOS) wish to respond to Minister Rohan Sinanan’s public statements made at the Sangre Grande Chamber of Commerce well attended “Invitation Only” Meeting held on Wednesday 31st January at the Regional Corporation office.

FFOS support road connectivity and are not in any way opposed to national development 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.

The Minister’s conduct is disrespectful to the rule of Law, and is in effect questioning the merits of the Court. It is wrong that this Honourable Cabinet member should hold this meeting during which time the matter is still before the Court.

To now claim that the injunction is costing the State $1M per day is a mischievous and prejudicial attempt to create bias, appeal for sympathy and pass blame for losses that Minister Sinanan must be blamed for. Let us explain:

FFOS filed its claim on 29th September 2017. At that time, no Contract had been signed with KALLCO, (which Mr. Sinanan had publicly admitted is owned by his family), and therefore common sense and financial prudence demanded that our Government not rush to engage KALLCO whilst the case was pending, but instead respect the authority of the High Court.

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, this is an environmentally sensitive area, highly protected and strict scientific reserve containing endemic, rare, threatened, endangered and environmentally sensitive species was likely to be irreversibly and irreparably damaged and destroyed.

The relevant timeline is as follows:

  1. June 22nd 2017- CEC granted by the EMA
  2. July 3rd 2017 – CEC placed on the National Register
  3. September 12th 2017- Pre-action protocol letter sent notifying the Government that FFOS intend to challenge grant of CEC
  4. September 29th 2017- FFOS filed 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.

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 signed the Contract and/or started construction work, and did this knowing that the Court may find the CEC approval was granted unlawfully.

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. Why did the Government put taxpayers money at risk by allowing KALLCO to start works knowing of the threat of the Injunction?
  3. How does Mr Sinanan know it is costing taxpayers $1M per day when the site is shut down for over the past ten days 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?
  6. Different figures are being bandied about by the State. Minister Sinanan said it is $1M per day, the Ministry’s lawyers in Court said $10M per week, or $1.5M per day, . In KALLCO’s affidavit they said in 2 weeks they spent approximately $250,000 per day or $3.5M . Which one is it, 250,000? 1 Million or 1.5Million? Why the different figures? Is the Minister not aware of the true cost of the project?
  7. If this is the first leg at 400M, and the other legs are 4.4Billion, can the Minister explain if we can afford to spend this on a rural highway while hospitals are without medicine, while cancer patients are suffering etc. etc. etc.?

Unless Minister Sinan is held accountable for his hasty, wasteful and clear conflict of interest actions, the decades old raid on the treasury will continue unchallenged.

Forever yours in sustainable development Terrance Beddoe President Fishermen and Friends of the Sea

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