Attorney calls for ex-gratia payments for families of Paria victims

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Attorney calls for ex-gratia payments for families of Paria victims

Government is being urged to make ex-gratia payments to all the families affected by the Paria tragedy.

The appeal comes from Attorney Prakash Ramadhar.

Ramadhar, who is representing some of the families, said: “It is obscene and absurd that to this day, not a single cent has been paid to any one of these families as an ex-gratia payment. It is not too late. It is late, yes, but the Government can do the right and proper thing to ensure that the families get at least some financial comfort.”

After viewing the final, virtual sitting of the Commission of Enquiry into the fatal dive (CoE) on Wednesday, Ramadhar said: “The chairman also said, as a matter of common decency, he would have expected, as we have been saying from day one, that an ex-gratia payment be made to the families.”

At the virtual hearing, CoE chairman Jerome Lynch, KC, announced that the report was ready. Ramadhar said he felt a sense of relief, “as many in society would.”

He said the affected families have children who attend school without a father or a breadwinner in the home.

“The chairman was very clear that the $15 million-plus spent on the CoE itself does not include the legal costs incurred by Paria and Heritage and other interested parties. The legal costs will also amount to millions of dollars – and not a cent for the families,” Ramadhar said.

On February 25, last year, divers Kazim Ali Jr, Fyzal Kurban, Yusuf Henry, Rishi Nagassar and Christopher Boodram were pulled into an undersea pipeline while doing maintenance work at Berth 6 for Paria Fuel Trading Company. Boodram is the only survivor.

The report is to be handed over to President Christine Kangaloo. When she gets it, Ramadhar hopes that as quickly as possible, she will present it to the Government.

“The President can do very little with the report other than to pass it to the Government. The Government has the power and responsibility to make decisions, either to release the report or not to release it,” he told reporters.

“I would shudder to imagine that any responsible government would not make the report public. I expect they would. But my expectations are based on what is decent and right.”

Even without the report, Ramadhar and his team promised to file action against all those they consider liable.

He quoted the chairman, who said the deaths were no acts of God or accidents.