She was speaking at a political meeting at the Debe High School. Roopnarine is the MP for Oropouche West and most of the people affected by the highway extension live in her constituency.
Roopnarine said 360 families are affected and more than 200 of them have already send in applications for compensation. She also noted that some of the people who are destined to be relocated do not have proper titles and documentations for their lands.
She said contrary to reports from the Highway Reroute Movement, most people have welcomed the highway as providing opportunities that never existed in the region. Roopnarine said government has already reserved lands in Petit Mourne to accommodate the people who have to move. She said she understands the trauma of having to give up your home.
A member of Roopnarine's constituency executive told the meeting officials have done several surveys among the affected people and there is widespread support for the project and most people are willing to move.
Transport Minister and MP for Fyzabad Chandresh Sharma corroborated that and said he personally surveyed the area and handed out flyers explaining government's position. Sharma said everybody welcomes the highway. Sharma noted that the idea of a highway to Point Fortin is not new. Eric Williams first proposed it in the 1981 budget speech he said, but no government was able to build it until now.
Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissesssar told the meeting the government will build the highway because it is necessary and provides an economic lifetime to the region. The highway is the most expensive infrastructure project ever undertaken by a T&T government. It is estimated to cost $7.2 billion and provide thousands of jobs to nationals. Under the contract with the Brazilian company OAS, 85 per cent of work must be given to locals.
The contract was negotiated by the previous Manning PNM administration under the watch of former Works Minister Colm Imbert. OAS was the selected contractor; the new People's Partnership government accepted the recommendation of its predecessor and awarded to contract to OAS.