Hunger striker 'prepared to die' over Trinidad highway project

Reuters News
Posted: Nov 21, 2014 12:25 PM

By Linda Hutchinson-Jafar

PORT OF SPAIN (Reuters) - Trinidadian hunger striker Dr. Wayne Kublalsingh, in his 65th day of consuming no food or water, says he is prepared to continue his fast, even if it means giving up his life to stop construction of a controversial highway.

“Of course, I’m prepared to die for this cause,” Kublalsingh, 55, told Reuters in a raspy whisper during a visit on Thursday to his home in D'Abadie, 20 miles east of the capital, Port of Spain.

The former university lecturer embarked on his extreme form of protest over the building of part of a highway which he says will affect fragile wetland eco-systems and several close-knit communities.

It’s the second time that Kublalsingh has embarked on a hunger strike over the same issue.

In 2012, he staged a 21-day hunger strike outside the prime minister’s office. That ended when he supported the formation of an independent review committee to re-examine the highway construction project. The government says the new road will link two key cities and is vital to the country's economic development.

Kublalsingh began his second hunger strike after construction of the four-lane highway continued in the southern region of the country.

The environmentalist said the government was given an amended proposal by supporters of his Highway Re-route Movement based on a series of connector roads and bypasses that dovetails with the state’s architect plans.

Kublalsingh said if the government agrees to mediation and suspends work on the controversial portion of the highway, he will end his hunger strike.

Despite many calls for the prime minister of Trinidad and Tobago, Kamla Persad-Bissessar, to intervene, she has not sought to meet with the hunger striker.

Kublalsingh, while very weak and severely dehydrated, said he is mentally alert and “spiritually connected.”

(Editing by David Adams and Gunna Dickson)