(Trinidad Express) NO billboards can be erected on State land without the permission of the Works and Infrastructure Ministry. And its acting Director of Highways Colin Nakhid said yesterday that he gave no permission for the highway billboards bearing the image of Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar to be placed along the highways.
Nakhid said only traffic safety signs were allowed alongside roads, and billboards could only be placed on private property without the State getting involved. He was responding to questions about the decision by Government to erect highway billboards bearing the face of Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar wishing citizens a Merry Christmas and a bright and prosperous New Year. The billboards have been a topic of discussion by citizens, some in support of the gesture, and others who consider it a waste of taxpayers’ money. The billboards are costing taxpayers at least $60,000, but according to Communications Minister Vasant Bharath, it was not a significant dent in the national treasury.
Nakhid said he was unaware if permission was given for the billboards to be placed in the strategic spots along the Solomon Hochoy and Uriah Butler highways since he had seen no official request. Nakhid told the Express: “No structures at all except traffic safety structures are allowed, first of all, on any highway. All billboards require the permission of the Director of Highways especially if they are on State property. Usually no permission is given unless they are traffic safety signs to be erected on the State property which is called the right of way. If it is private property, of course you can put up your signs because private property will be outside of the right of way.” Another Ministry official, who asked not to be named, said at least three similar billboards, one in Trincity, El Socorro and near to Caroni were observed, but the official could not confirm if they were built on the State’s reserve.
The Express observed three billboards near the Golconda interchange in San Fernando and one in Couva near the Children’s Hospital under construction. The official said: “We do not allow any structure to be erected on the highway’s reserve for futuristic purposes and also for safety reasons. Any structure that goes on will need to have the approval of the Director of Highways. If someone hits them and gets injured, the people who are liable is the Ministry of Works because it is our reserve. If it is an illegal structure, we have the responsibility to remove them.” The ministry usually does routine checks to ensure the highway reserve that could span a distance of five metres and more is free of any illegal structure, the official said. “It is not that we target any one person or anything. Through our routine maintenance, we will go out and look and see if there is anything in the road reserve illegally and then we take the necessary measures,” the official said.
“They (district engineers) do usual surveying of the highway, so when people are advertising for parties and stuff like that, we normally take them down because those are illegal structures. It is the same concept,” the official said. On Tuesday, former prime minister Basdeo Panday, questioned why Persad-Bissessar’s photographs were posted on the billboards. He said: “I must say that is the only Prime Minister that ever did that. And one wonders why?”