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PM presses on with Debe UWI campus
Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar said she will not be deterred by detractors in her plans to establish a University of the West Indies (UWI) campus in Debe, south Trinidad. Responding to objections raised by Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley about the suitability of the venue, Persad-Bissessar said in San Fernando on Tuesday evening: “Nothing will stop us from constructing the UWI campus in Debe. “In that regard, on February 24, together with Minister Fazal Karim and other Ministers, we will turn the sod for the start of the construction of the UWI campus in Debe.”
The Prime Minister was speaking at the sod-turning ceremony for the start of construction of the extension of the Solomon Hochoy Highway extending from San Fernando to Point Fortin. At that same function, Housing Minister Dr Roodal Moonilal also supported the decision to build the campus in his constituency of Oropouche East. “People of Oropouche East, Diamond Village, Debe, welcome this development (highway extension), as we welcome the development of the south campus of UWI. “I want to say the people of Debe should no longer be confined to making doubles, aloo pies and saheena. They can also host a UWI and a centre for technology. This is what we will offer the people of Debe and Oropouche,” Moonilal declared.
Rowley contends that on the basis of UWI being a regional institution, consultation was necessary before any such development could take place. He did not believe the location was appropriate for expansion of the institution, and recalled that his government had located a piece of land in Orange Grove for the said purpose.
Rowley also questioned the decision by government to meet with UWI officials, when a sod-turning date had already been set. The 50 km highway, which is to be completed at a cost of $7.2 billion in four years, will stimulate and strengthen the economy, Persad-Bissessar said.
Construtora OAS of Brazil is the main contractor for the project, but the Prime Minister demanded a minimum of 40 per cent of all labour, skilled and unskilled, must be local. Moonilal said the highway will bring meaningful benefits to his constituency and will provide greater marketing opportunities for farmers. Persad-Bissessar told the Parliamentary representatives for Point Fortin and La Brea, Paula Gopee-Scoon and Fitzgerald Jeffrey who were present at the function, that their constituents are important to her government and will be treated equally.
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