Trinidad hunger striker claims to surpass 100 days

In this Dec. 24, 2014 photo, Wayne Kublalsingh poses for a portrait at his home during his hunger strike in D’Abadie, Trinidad and Tobago.
Associated Press / Tony Fraser

D’ABADIE, Trinidad (AP) _ A prominent environmental activist in Trinidad who claims to have passed the 100-day mark of a hunger strike said he will reject medical intervention and keep protesting a highway project he says could hurt wetlands and remote villages.

Wayne Kublalsingh, 55, told The Associated Press in an interview this week he will suspend the strike only if the government lets independent mediators assess the project. He declined government offers for dialogue, saying community leaders have met repeatedly with officials without results.

“All we have gotten from them is malingering, procrastination, a high degree of insincerity,” said Kublalsingh, his gaunt frame buried in the soft cushion of his small bed, closing his eyes through most of the interview.

Works and Infrastructure Minister Surujrattan Rambachan told the AP Saturday that development company representatives are prepared to meet with Kublalsingh and other protesters in January.

“We continue to build the highway to allow people to be able to get to their destinations quickly and for their own economic and social purposes,” said Rambachan. He said the government is concerned about Kublalsingh’s health.

“It’s up to those around Dr. Kublalsingh to urge him to end the fast and save his life,” he said.

The former university professor went on strike on Sept. 17 and is down to 88 pounds (40 kilograms) from 133 pounds (60 kilograms). He wants the government to reroute a nine-mile (14-kilometer) portion of the Port Fortin highway extension project in southern Trinidad to avoid cutting through 13 communities and part of the Oropouche Lagoon.

“It will disrupt life for generations of villagers living in the area and do irreparable damage to the lagoon,” he said.

Prime Minister Persad-Bissessar and other officials say they won’t halt construction, and that it’s the best route to ease traffic and link southern Trinidad with the capital.

Kublalsingh held another hunger strike that ended after 21 days in December 2012 when the prime minister established an independent committee to examine his concerns. That committee found that hydrology feasibility studies and social and economic impact studies were insufficient.

The government said it implemented most committee recommendations, but Kublalsingh said officials ignored the findings and launched the current hunger strike. He claims to have rejected all nourishment except for intravenous fluids administered in a hospital after he recently collapsed.

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