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OWTU calls for meeting with PM

By Joel Julien joel.julien@trinidadexpress.com

The Oilfields Workers’ Trade Union (OWTU) is calling for an urgent meeting with Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar to provide all of the records and documentary evidence it has relating to the recent oil spills.

The meeting is necessary to avoid any recurrence, OWTU president-general Ancel Roget said yesterday when he delivered a letter to Persad-Bissessar outlining the “sins of omission and commission” on the part of Petrotrin’s management team that led to the oil spills that have been affecting this country’s south-western peninsula since last month.

Roget led a contingent from the OWTU to the Office of the Prime Minister in St Clair around 10 a.m. to deliver the letter.

The letter was handed over to the Prime Minister’s press secretary, Francis Joseph.

“You would know that since December 17 the national oil company has been plagued with a number of issues relating to a major oil spill and, subsequently, a number of oil spills,” Roget said.

“We in the OWTU, we are very concerned about the consequence of those oil spills and we are concerned that the management, in their desperate attempt to cover up the real cause, the root cause of those oil spills, we are very concerned that the real issues will not come out, and if those issues are not brought to the fore then the national oil company is in great danger of having reoccurrences and so on in the future. So therefore it is another proactive move that we are making this morning on behalf of the stakeholders, and the stakeholders in this regard are all of the people of Trinidad and Tobago,” he said.

Roget said a lot of misinformation surrounding the oil spills is currently being disseminated. “If Petrotrin goes down, then the people of Trinidad and Tobago will lose and therefore we felt that it is our responsibility to not sit idly by and allow the management and the board of directors with its chairman peddle a lot of misinformation to the public in general and of course to their bosses in the Cabinet,” Roget said.

“We feel that the Prime Minister is at a serious disadvantage because she is not apprised of the facts and therefore to be able to apprise her of those facts relating to the causes of the incident and this major catastrophe we feel that we should bring those facts to the fore,” he said.
Respecting good protocol, Roget said he would not divulge the contents of the letter.

“Generally we wish to state this morning that we have requested an urgent meeting with the Prime Minister, at which meeting we are hell-bent on putting on the table all of the records, documentary evidence and so on and all of the records relating to the oil spill,” Roget said.

Among the records are “all of the recommendations that were made both by the company (Petrotrin) and of course by ourselves (OWTU) to prevent such an occurrence and so on”, Roget said.

“We want the independent arm’s length eye of the Prime Minister, who is not involved in it on a daily basis, to look at the other side. All we are asking is for her to meet with us and to examine what we are saying, the veracity of that to be determined based on the facts that we will be presenting, and therefore we eagerly anticipate a speedy response precisely because of the nature and the importance of this issue,” Roget said.

Roget said the OWTU would be expecting a quick response from Persad-Bissessar on the issue. “It is not really about the sinners, you know, but it is the sins of commission and omission on the part of the management which led us to where we are here. And let’s put it on the table and objectively examine them in an independent way,” Roget said.

“So we felt that we could not have gone to the board, understandably, we could not have gone to the minister, understandably. He is connected to the board, connected to the management himself. The Minister of Energy has been seen and heard defending the errors of the management of Petrotrin. We could not have gone to him and so we felt that the only person that we can turn to in this moment of crisis for our national oil company is the one who has the responsibility for the stewardship of the national community, and that is the Prime Minister herself,” he said.
Roget said the evidence OWTU has proves Petrotrin could have put things in place to avoid the oil spills.

“Going forward you would recognise, as we begin to release all of these records and so on, all of the evidence, all of the recommendations that were made to the management who sat idly by, for whatever reason, sat idly by and did nothing, but which provided an ample opportunity for the events of December 17 and the subsequent events, you would recognise the veracity of our claims,” Roget said.
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