POINT Fortin MP Paula Gopee-Scoon yesterday accused State-owned oil company Petrotrin of using claims of sabotage to cover up the poor housekeeping that led to last month’s oil spills.
Gopee-Scoon, speaking in the Parliament during a Motion of Importance on the Adjournment of the House, also called for the removal of the board of directors and Petrotrin president Khalid Hassanali, whom she called “rudderless”. “There was no question of sabotage, it was all a question of bad operations on the part of Petrotrin,” Gopee-Scoon said.
She later stated: “It was a cover-up from day one.”
The southern peninsula, in particular La Brea and Otaheite, has been affected by at least one of what Petrotrin has said is a series oil-spills that began at the company’s Pointe-a-Pierre loading dock on December 17.
Gopee-Scoon questioned Petrotrin’s claims that 7,000 barrels were spilled into the Gulf of Paria in the first instance, and said the spill appears to be much larger at this stage.
The Point Fortin MP then waded into Energy Minister Kevin Ramnarine, who she said was unable to transform the National Oil Spill Contingency Plan (NOSCP) from a document into a plan of action.
“You have failed,” Gopee-Scoon said, adding later on: “You, Minister of Energy, you should offer your resignation as well.”
Gopee-Scoon’s comments did not sit well with Ramnarine, who, speaking immediately afterward, thanked La Brea MP Fitzgerald Jefferey for his contribution and said he found Jefferey to be “genuine”, unlike Gopee-Scoon.
The latter took immediate offence and stood up to demand a retraction, forcing House Speaker Wade Mark to his feet to call for both to sit, as they could not be standing at the same time.
Mark then called on Ramnarine to withdraw his comment, which the Energy Minister did, saying he would like to see the Members of Parliament rise above politics at this time.
Ramnarine said Gopee-Scoon should come forth if there is evidence Petrotrin engineered any oil spills beyond December 17. “If you have evidence, take it to the police,” Ramnarine said.
Jefferey had earlier said the spill, which has all but immobilised Coffee Beach and Carrat Shed in La Brea, was not the doing of the residents there and they should not be made to pay for it.
Jefferey knocked the response of the Government and Petrotrin so far, saying there is yet to be serious and consistent blood and organ testing for the affected communities, where more than 150 people were admitted for check-ups after suffering the effects of hydro-carbons in the air.
Ramnarine said more than $10 million has been spent on clean-ups on the southern peninsula so far and the ministry is not “twiddling its thumbs” on the matter.