Indarsingh wants Paria and Heritage to publicly outline their claims of bias against CoE

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Indarsingh wants Paria and Heritage to publicly outline their claims of bias against CoE

Opposition MP Rudy Indarsingh believes the claims of bias levied against the Commission of Enquiry into the Paria diving tragedy, Paria Fuel and Heritage Petroleum, is setting the stage for the beginning of the end of the report, in an attempt to protect the PNM-ites at Paria.

In a release on Thursday, Indarsingh said: “It is alarming to have heard that the Chairman of the Commission of Enquiry into the Paria Diving Tragedy, Mr Jerome Lynch, KC, advised that Paria Fuel Trading Company Limited and Heritage Petroleum Company Limited have written to the Commission claiming bias against their respective companies.

Indarsingh is calling on the Board and management of Paria Fuel Trading and Heritage Petroleum to issue public statements outlining the bases upon which they believe the Commission is or was biased against them.

He said, “It is of great concern that the supposed bias claimed by Paria and Heritage are emerging two months before the much anticipated deadline for delivery of the Report of the Commission of Enquiry.”

“One must note that for the entire duration of the Commission of Enquiry, neither Paria nor Heritage ever issued a public statement indicating any concern about supposed bias.
We must remind Paria and Heritage that they are public entities, and the Paria Commission of Enquiry is also a public mechanism funded by taxpayer dollars. If it is the concern by any party that a public agency is overtly or covertly practising any form of bias, such possibility of bias affects the public good.”

Indarsingh added, that in a situation as sensitive as the Paria Diving Tragedy, there can be no room for real or perceived bias on the part of the Commission of Enquiry.

“There can also be no attempt – real or perceived – to discredit the work and findings of the Commission in an attempt to protect corporate and political friends in Paria and Heritage,” he said.

“We must recall that at the time of the Tragedy, Newman George, husband of PNM-appointed House Speaker Bridgid Annisette-George and golfing partner of Prime Minister Keith Rowley, was the Chairman of Paria and has remained in that position ever since.

“We must also recall the scant, uncompassionate, arrogant, dehumanizing manner in which Paria and Heritage dealt with the families of these divers during the ordeal and in the months after. No one from Paria provided them with updates. There was no accommodation for them as they awaited news on site. Paria tried to block the families of these divers from testifying at the Commission. To date the lone survivor Christopher Boodram and families of the other four divers lament that Paria still has not offered any support to them, and this PNM Government even attempted to put together a committee which included Eugene Tiah, who had a conflict of interest given his deep association with the line Minister, Stuart Young.”

Indarsingh said as far as the country has been told, there has been no change of personnel at Paria, and those involved in the mismanagement of the Paria crisis remain well paid in their respective posts.

“It is, therefore, unseemly and flabbergasting that as the country anticipates the publication of the report, both Paria and Heritage would cry bias.
Is this a case of the boy who cried wolf?”

He said neither Paria nor Heritage can be trusted, “given that their senior management is infested with friends and family of the PNM, and their attempt at disqualifying the Commissioners at this very late stage suggests more to the proverbial mortar than the pestle.”

“Paria and Heritage must stop hiding behind the smokescreen of corporate and legal letters and let the country judge for itself whether there was bias. Paria and Heritage must issue a statement underlying their bases now and stop sending cowardly letters to the Commission. The country is watching very closely whether Heritage, Paria and the PNM will seek to have this report disqualified to protect “Naughty Newman” and other friends of the PNM.”

Indarsingh said by attempting to delegitimize the Commission and its Report, Paria and Heritage seem to be setting the stage for the beginning of the end to the report, and the justice and accountability to which their report may lead.