VASCO: Chaotic situation marred the fourth day public hearing over the remark of outsiders opposing the expansion plan by Mormugao Port Trust (MPT). Citizens during the fourth day of public hearing not only condemned MPT for its statement but even demanded a written apology from MPT Chairman I Jeyakumar with the claims that such statement by MPT aims to create a divide among the Goans -- between Vasco citizens and outside Vasco citizens.
This combined day-long hearing on Saturday was planned only to provide fair opportunity to the people who expressed their views earlier on proposed expansion plans at MPT and then to conclude all three hearings. But again, due to large number people wanting to express their views, the hearing could not be completed even on Saturday and now the spillover hearing has been adjourned for March 2, 2017 (Tuesday).
The high voltage drama started soon after the fourth day of public hearing commenced. Vasco-based environment activist Advocate Savio J F Correia raised the point of order that, the way MPT has issued a statement, the same is not in the spirit of public consultation.
Correia said, “Such consultation is like a dialogue between the project proponent and citizens where the collector is the moderator. Now if one of the parties (MPT) does not want citizens to speak then what is the purpose of conducting public hearing?” he questioned.
Correia further pointed out that “By issuing such irresponsible statement, MPT has committed contempt of the chair (Presiding officer for public hearing) as MPT has questioned the competency of Presiding officer in handling the public hearing besides intimidating the Presiding officer. Also such statement aims at creating a divide among the Goans between Vasco citizens and outside Vasco citizens by calling them (concerned citizens) outsiders. Also public hearings have to be conducted in the spirit of public consultation. Thus until and unless MPT apologises to people of Goa, this hearing should not be conducted.” However, as no reply was received, citizens continued expressing their views under protest.
During the first half of the hearing, situation also turned tensed after Collector Naik directed the citizens to complete their submission within 5 to 10 minutes. Vasco based fishermen leader Custodio D’Souza demanded for more time. However, the same was denied and as he was not ready to step down from podium, presiding officer asked the police to get D’Souza out of podium corner. Agitated with the actions of presiding officer, citizens started alleging that such timing restrictions are causing a differentiation between the people who were there on the first day and people who are present on the fourth day.
“If people who expressed their views earlier were given enough time as much he/she wanted then how can you restrict a person speaking on Saturday with time restriction of five minutes? Why did this rule not start right from beginning and this confusion is creating differentiation between two citizens.” Custodio D’Souza said.
Former MMC Chairperson Madeline Pereira too raised her concerns over time restriction but then continued to express her views under protest. She said “We as citizens cannot be a silent witness to the atrocities happening in Vasco. Coal is benefiting for the one industry at the cost of people and ecological species. We have come here to fight for our lives, towards atrocities and to save the lives of future generation. Also I still remember how Portuguese shut down fish mill plan at housing board colony following strong opposition from people. However, our own government does not bother about the health of the people despite strong opposition from people” she said.