Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley yesterday demanded that the Minister of Energy commission an independent investigation into the recent oil spill, its effects on the south-west peninsula, and an evaluation of what needs to be done so that all the people who were adversely affected can get justice.
Speaking at a news conference at his Charles Street office, Rowley said the country needed an independent investigation outside of the Minister, the Ministry of Energy, Petrotrin and the Environmental Management Authority (EMA).
“The enquiry must be done by people who don’t have anything to protect and no rear end to cover, and the evidence must be taken in public,” he stressed.
Rowley said Trinidad and Tobago, an oil-producing country of more than 100 years, could find a handful of people in this country who can conduct such an inquiry. He said the inquiry was “sufficiently important to have the cloak of a commission of enquiry”.
Rowley asked how the EMA arrived at a $20 million fine for Petrotrin.
“They did not even say ‘an interim fine’,” he noted, adding that as the full effects of the spill are known, it is clear the damage would run into more than $20 million.
“In the meantime, communities are suffering and being treated in the most off-hand manner by the State and Petrotrin, which is attempting to hand them gifts so that they can be happy with generosities rather than dealing with rights, responsibilities and liabilities.
“There are people who are inhaling volatiles down there (in the affected communities) put into their nostrils by people who have legal liability and such persons are being treated as ‘yuh lucky to get some food and a ten-day work’, when in fact Petrotrin and the State have serious immediate, medium-term and long-term liabilities...for these volatiles they are inhaling and the damage to their livelihood,” Rowley stated. —See Page 9
He said the fishermen need to be compensated in a transparent way, as are the people who sell fish for a living. He said when the price of fish goes up, the entire country would be affected.
He said no State agency is saying comprehensively how all of this is being approached.
Rowley said Government was hoping that all these people would not be able to defend themselves and would be given “a pittance” from the State, while millions are spent on contracts by the EMA.