Hunger Striking Eco-Activist 'Prepared to Die' for His Cause
Trinidadian Dr. Wayne Kublalsingh says protest is a 'form of peaceful social war' against government development plans
Environmental crusader Dr. Wayne Kublalsingh, who has refused food and water for more than two months, said he's "prepared to die" for his country, while reports indicate that the renowned Trinidadian university professor and activist is approaching his final days.
Since September 17, Kublalsingh, 55, has been on a hunger strike protesting the construction of a portion of a four-lane highway which will cut through a critical wetlands habitat on land that he says the government of Trinidad and Tobago has forcibly seized from island residents.
"I'm doing this absolutely for Trinidad and Tobago," Kublalsingh recently told VICE News, describing his hunger strike as a "form of peaceful social war" against the country's government.
His protest, he added, is "against the economic crimes committed against the people, against white collar criminality and the government's failure to account for and justify its actions."
The hunger strike is Kublalsingh's second against the proposed Debe to Mon Desir segment of the Solomon Hochoy Highway extension. In 2012, he ended his 21-day strike after the country's prime minister agreed to establishing an independent committee to reevaluate the project. Kublalsingh renewed his protest after construction continued.
Kublalsingh, who heads the Highway Re-route Movement, said he will disband his current strike if the government suspends work on the controversial portion of the highway, and agrees to mediation in consideration of the Movement's alternative route proposal.
The government has argued that the connector is vital to the island's economic development while environmentalists claim that the 9-mile stretch of road will likely be used to expand tar sands development in the area.
"All the things that need to be in place for tar sands mining [in Trinidad] are in place," Canadian activist Macdonald Stainsby told VICE News. Citing Stainsby, VICE listed other recent developments which point to this, including: "a new power station in the area, a recently upgraded bitumen-oil refinery, a new desalination plant, and business meetings between the Trinidad and Tobago government and Canadian mining companies."
"Of course, I’m prepared to die for this cause," Kublalsingh told Reuters on Friday. Though recently hospitalized in critical condition, Kublalsingh said he is still mentally alert and "spiritually connected."
Earlier this year, Kublalsignh gave a TED Talk on the monetization of natural resources and the "modern investment state" that has driven the development and destruction of key ecosystems locally and globally.
"What's happening in Trinidad and Tobago is of course a microcosm of what's happening internationally, globally," he said. Describing what he called "viral capital coming from your left side" and "viral global warming coming from your right side," Kublalsignh said that this can only lead to "the fragmentation of organic life as we know it on the planet."
"So, what do we do about it?" he asks. Quoting playwright Harold Pinter, Kublalsingh said that when faced with an atrocity, people behave in different ways: some people are just oblivious and go on living normally, some are aware of what's going on but feel they cannot stop it, some people get up and join the atrocity, and some people get up and fight the atrocity.
You can watch his entire presentation below.