Sunday, February 18, 2018

Getting to the truth

Express editorial logo299

Mark Fraser

Two recent events would suggest that the greater the public’s demand for information, the less clarity it is likely to get.

The cases in point involve the 732-pound cocaine bust by US Customs and Border Protection involving a shipment of fruit juice from this country and the Petrotrin oil spill.

In the case of the drug bust, the National Security Minister’s anxiety to record success got the better of him last week as news broke about the interception of Trinidad-originated cocaine in Virginia, USA.

Unlike acting Commissioner of Police Stephen Williams who frankly admitted to having had no information about the bust, Minister Griffith spun an elaborate explanation, taking credit for drug busts by foreign security agencies. According to him, the busts were due to better collaboration between T&T law enforcement agencies and their counterparts in the United Kingdom, France and the United States.

In contrast to the minister’s broad hinting of a role by T&T security agencies without quite specifying, US Customs and Border Protection Area Port Director Mark J Laria praised his officers for finding the drugs on their own, without the help of any informant.

According to him, “This was a cold hit. There was no specific intelligence.”

Given Minister Griffith’s horn-tooting, the T&T public might well wonder why, if our security agencies have critical information about drug shipments from this country, are they not stopped in their tracks right here at home? Given the non-involvement of T&T’s security agencies in this latest drug bust, Minister Griffith’s boast that “the days of our country being used as a simple transshipment point for drugs and weapons … would be over” is nothing but meaningless chatter. The irrationality was further compounded by his attempt to use the US drug seizure to vindicate the government’s decision to abort the purchase of offshore patrol vessels.

Meanwhile, the Petrotrin oil spill turned bizarre last week when the company fired an employee who, it claimed, had been under investigation for months for breaching policy by accepting a gift and was allegedly involved in the illegal sale of oil. In response, the Oilfields Workers’ Trade Union dismissed the company’s action as an attempt to cover up the real cause of the oil disaster which, it insists, is the result of faulty and rundown infrastructure.

The company’s action does indeed raise fresh questions. Given that oil theft is a criminal act, was the police called in to investigate this matter? Further, assuming the employee was under investigation for months in regard to oil theft, why was he or she not removed from such sensitive operations?

Further compounding the Petrotrin mystery was the EMA’s report that there has been only four oil spills, not 11 as claimed by Petrotrin.

With the facts of this oil spill becoming increasingly slippery, we once again urge the Prime Minister to launch an independent investigation into the full circumstances surrounding this oil spill. Limiting the probe to the environmental impact, as she has done, is unlikely to get us to the truth of this matter.