PNM Tobago Council leader wants Integrity Commission to investigate Friendship Road project

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Political Leader of the PNM Tobago Council Ancil Dennis – File photo by Ayanna Kinsale

The People’s National Movement (PNM) Tobago Council political leader Ancil Dennis says he will approach the Integrity Commission after a judge stopped the Friendship Connector Road project on Wednesday.

Dennis’ statement came two days after Secretary of Infrastructure, Quarries and Urban Development (DIQUD) Trevor James said the THA had no time for lengthy consultation with residents affected by the $70 million project.

Derek Hearn and his sister Serina Hearn, residents whose property is affected by the construction of the 2.7 km dual-lane road, were granted an injunction on Wednesday by Justice Eleanor Donaldson-Honeywell to stop the project. The project, according to the division, is 75 per cent complete.

The Hearns’ own a 26-acre estate at Friendship Road, Canaan, with an organic farm, stable, apiary, an old wooden house, a well and two mills.

Speaking at a press conference on Thursday at the party’s headquarters in Scarborough, Dennis said the situation was a “sad development.

“This is not something for us to rejoice over.”

He said he was vindicated after James made his statements on Tuesday.

“The place to deal with rogue elements, the place to deal with criminals and corrupt folks is the courthouse. The place that protects people’s constitutional rights is the courthouse.”

He said just as James could have his say, so could the PNM based on their understanding of the law but the result rests with the court’s ruling.

“When it was the EMA situation, the same Trevor James, in responding to a question from the Minority Leader, told the people of Tobago that that same court matter cost the THA in excess of $1 million.

“Here we are again having to respond unnecessarily because had the THA simply followed the law, had they simply fled from arrogance and childish behaviour, they would not have been taken to court and even if they were taken to court, they would not have been caught with their pants down and they would not have been found wanting when the actions were measured up to the laws of TT.”

Work on the project was stopped in May 2023 when the EMA filed a complaint that the Assembly did not have the required approvals- a Certificate of Environmental Clearance (CEC)- to start the project.

At that time, Justice Frank Seepersad granted an injunction to stop the project. The THA then applied for a CEC.

In their application for an injunction, the Hearns’ said the DIQUD did not meet the stipulations of the CEC, which included consulting them.

The Hearns’ also argued that by not getting Town and Country approval for the project, the THA was acting illegally. On Tuesday, James had said the THA did not need Town and Country approval.

On Thursday, Dennis said Tobago was headed down a precipice with THA officials “emboldened to trample on citizens’ rights and break the country’s laws.

Dennis said he will not sit idly by while this happens.

“I want to signal to the people of Tobago that we intend to cause this matter, as with other matters, to be reported to the integrity commission… We will report these matters to the relevant authority and the chips will fall where they may.”

Newsday called and sent messages to Augustine and James but there was no response on Thursday.