Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Smelter debate heats up. Again!

It seems that now the distraction of our Soca Warriors in Germany has cooled down a bit, Trinis are now keen to take back up the discusssions about what's going wrong in the country.
One of the discussions has been about the announcement in yesterday's newspapers that Ramesh Lawrence Maharaj, former Attorney General and recent returnee to the split and weakening Opposition party the United National Congress has offered to take up, pro bono, the case of the community of Chatham/Cap de Ville and environs, against the building of the ALCOA aluminum smelter in their area.
Indeed it's the first time I've seen so much use of the Express newspaper's online reader's comments attached to indvidual stories that they over ambitiously touted as their 'blog'feature.
The prevailing wisdom seems to be that it's a mistake for the community to align itself with Ramesh, given his track record (one of the things that comes readily to mind in his time as AG, he withdrew Trinidad from the UN declaration on Human Rights so that he could hang some people).
Still, as I asked of some people this morning, why haven't other non aligned lawyers come forward? If it is then that the communities are now at the mercy of political bandwagonists, who only bother to hitch themselves to successful popular movements anyway, then is that the naiveté of the communities, or is that the fault of those of us who should know better? Or is it both?
The reality is that an injunction needs to be taken out. The community was as far as I know turned down when they approached Legal Aid. Ramesh came forward and has offered to do the work pro bono.
I think it is the responsibility of all who are concerned about this to keep an eye on what is going on. Ramesh should not be allowed in the manner of ALCOA and our esteemed government, to ride on the backs of the people of Chatham and Cap de Ville.
Indeed it is an interesting development in the anti-smelter lobby. I hope that all the many citizens standing on the sidelines, don't use this as justification for their continued inaction.
Now more than ever we need to give the communities of the south western peninsula our support.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Corpus Christi planting success

They didn't send out the security detail for us this time.
On World Environment Day, they went in and destroyed the trees we'd planted a week before. A further indication of how petty and destructive these people who are introducing these death industries can be. If they can't do a simple thing like honour a buffer zone, how then can we trust them to properly dispose of spent pot liners? How can we be sure that the workers in those plants will have proper gear, will have access to proper health care when they inevitably fall ill?
But I digress. We set off early yesterday morning on the now familiar road. Through the Caroni plains covered in a light early morning mist. Past still sleeping villages and under the glare of the incessant Atlantic LNG flare.
Union Village Council President Elijah Gour chose a new spot for us to plant, this time right on the boundary of the estate, down inside where we could see the workers getting on with goodness knows what, given that Alutrint HAS NOT been given a Certificate of Environmental Clearance by the EMA.
In the past couple of weeks since the rains have come, several parts of the cleared 1000 acres have become impassable lakes. It seems that Mother Nature is reclaiming her territory.
We planted samaan trees and coconut trees and cane. Huge canonball trees, yellow and pink pouis. Trees to grow big and strong. To protect the hill from further erosion. To try and replace the lungs that were so unceremoniously ripped out.
To say to the powers that be that we are not giving up this fight.
It was a beautiful morning for planting. Not just trees. We will reap a bountiful harvest from these seeds of defiance.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Press Release - Corpus Christi Planting protest

NGO’s and communities from across Trinidad and Tobago will converge on Union village early on the Corpus Christi holiday this Thursday to replant trees removed by companies involved in the Union Industrial Estate project.
Corpus Christi, which traditionally marks the beginning of planting at the start of the rainy season is being used as a rallying call to all communities and individuals concerned with clean and sustainable development for Trinidad and Tobago.
Several villagers in the Union area have had respiratory complaints during the dry season, when the 1000 acres of cleared land turned into a dust bowl. They received no compensation for medical bills from the companies involved.
The efforts of an Indian Arrival Day buffer zone re-planting exercise have since been graded down and the road blocked, demonstrating that the construction of the Alutrint smelter plant is already in contravention of this nation's laws.
Not only are they pressing ahead without a Certificate of Environmental Clearance, they have also not honoured the requirement the 100 m buffer zone between the road and the closest homes.
The Rights Action Group remains concerned that Trinidad and Tobago has neither the infrastructure to support the aluminum smelting industry nor the facilities and expertise required to monitor its envrionmental and social impacts.
There is still no official response from the EMA on the granting of the Certificate of Environmental Clearance, although Managing Director Dr. Dave Mc Intosh had announced at a Public Consultation at the La Brea Community Centre on May 27, 2006 that a decision would be announced on May 31.
RAG hopes this as a positive sign that the EMA may actually be heeding the voices of dissent and is thinking twice about the introduction of this death industry to our island.
For further information, please call 774 1276 or 718 0480.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

The morning after the night before

"It always starts with a small group of committed people. They raise their feeble voice. The media ignore them, the politicians laugh at them ("a tiny, marginal and vociferous group"), the respectable parties and the established old organizations crinkle their noses and distance themselves from their "radical slogans." But slowly they start to have an impact. People leave the respectable (meaning linked to the establishment) organizations and join the militant groups. This compels the leaders of the mainstream organizations to radicalize their slogans and to join the wave. The message spreads throughout the parties. Politicians who want to be reelected adopt the new slogans. "Important" journalists, serving as weathercocks, smell the change and adapt themselves in time to the new winds." -- Uri Avnery, Israeli activist opposed to the oppression of the Palestinians, 2/02

Thanks John John for this quote...

Friday, June 02, 2006

Smelters to get red card on World Envrionment Day

Local environmental lobbyists Rights Action Group (RAG) will host a
special 'Helltuh Smelta' event on Monday June 5, World Envrionment
Not to be left out of the football fever sweeping the nation, the
smelter warriors are asking all concerned citizens on World
Environment Day to come out and defend the goal of the citizens who
have spoken out against the building of the smelters in Trinidad.
The red card event which will take place in the Back Studio at the
CCA7 facility on Fernandes compound in Laventille, will feature
presentations from RAG, high school students, updates from the
affected communities of the south-western peninsula as well as
performances and visual presentations.
RAG will also speak to the issue of alternative forms of development
that are clean and sustainable and do not involve a haemorrhaging of
our natural resources.
RAG is also calling on all citizens of the Republic of Trinidad and
Tobago to plant trees on World Environment Day as a direct action
response to the very alarming trend of clearing of prime and potential
agricultural land for the construction of concrete jungles, in a time
when the nation's food importation bill is in the billions.
RAG was established by a group of concerned citizens around the
country in solidarity with the communities of the south-western
peninsula protesting against the imposition of aluminium smelters.
Admission to this event is free. Kick off time is 6.45pm. For further
information, please call 718-0480.