PNM slams ‘frightening’ Chief Sec stance on EMA

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Black Immigrant Daily News

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

The THA stage in the sea in Rockly Bay. File photo/David Lee

THE PNM Tobago Council has described THA Chief Secretary Farley Augustine’s interpretation of the authority of the Environmental Management Agency (EMA) in relation to actions taken by the assembly as farcical and frightening.

This comes following Augustine’s response to a question posed by the Minority Leader Kelvon Morris at the 12th plenary sitting at the Assembly Legislature, Scarborough on December 22.

At the sitting, Augustine said according to his reading of Section 25 (3) of the THA Act, the EMA is obligated to act “in accordance with the policy and directives of the Assembly” and consequently, the THA was not required to seek approval from the EMA to build the controversial $1.7 million stage in the sea for the Tobago Carnival in October.

Augustine said, “It should be noted that the project affectionately called Stage in the Sea, though it’s more than that, that costed $1.7 million, forms part of the THA’s work in claiming lands along the coastline in Scarborough. Since there would be need for much more extensive land reclamation in the Scarborough area and the Scarborough coastline headed towards Lambeau to protect the coastline, it is not a waste of resource.”

PNM Tobago leader Ancil Dennis. File photo/David Reid

He said there were preliminary studies done on the project, and the professional work and design were done by Coastal Management Unit of the Division of Infrastructure.

Questioned about the EMA release, which cited concerns about the project and the lack of EMA approval, Augustine said the EMA shall act in accordance with the policies and directives of the assembly.

“The THA Act 40 of 1996, Section 25, 2-3, it reads: where a statutory authority or a state enterprise provides services in Tobago, that authority of enterprise shall – not if, must or may be – shall in exercising its duties in relation to those services act in accordance with the policies or programmes of the assembly. And to this end may enter into a memorandum of understanding with the assembly.”

He added: “The last time I checked, Act 40 of 1996 is a part of the laws of Trinidad and Tobago and what the THA did in this instance is no different to what the THA has done several times in the past for all of its projects.”

The PNM Tobago Council expressed shock over Augustine’s position.

It said, “Augustine is attempting to convince Tobagonians that an institution which has been put in place to protect the environment and the citizenry from the excesses of government bodies and private interests is powerless in the Tobago space.

“Of equal concern is Augustine’s assertion that he wrote to the EMA, pointing out the ‘error of their ways.’. That combination of arrogance and ignorance does not bode well for the relationship between the THA and relevant state agencies and, by extension, the welfare of all Tobagonians.”

The release said even the most ardent supporter of Augustine and his team must be mindful of the importance of those statutory bodies which not only provide critical services to the population but, most importantly, protect the people from the politicians.

“Tobagonians cannot be left to the mercy of an administration that, in just one year, has demonstrated unacceptable levels of incompetence, insensitivity and dishonesty. We need the protections enshrined in our constitution.”

It said that dictatorships develop and become entrenched when the people remain silent and unresponsive to the early signs.

“The PNM Tobago Council is calling on the business community, the legal fraternity, the community activists and organisations, the high profile and usually vocal social commentators; in fact, all right-thinking citizens, to unite in opposing Augustine’s stance and, hopefully, reversing this disturbing trend.”

Efforts to contact EMA managing director Hayden Romano on Friday were futile as he was unavailable up to press time.