Kamla: Rowley must instruct Paria to accept liability for negligence

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Kamla: Rowley must instruct Paria to accept liability for negligence

Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar has joined the chorus of calls seeking the dismissal of the Paria Board, following the findings of the Lynch Commission of Enquiry regarding the deaths of four divers in 2022.

Persad-Bissessar, in a statement on Monday morning, said the company is “guilty of gross negligence and should be prosecuted for corporate manslaughter”.

“The UNC notes with grave concern and welcomes the strong finding by the Lynch Commission of Enquiry, that Paria is guilty of gross negligence and should be prosecuted for Corporate Manslaughter. This finding is not surprising given the overwhelming evidence that was already in the public domain, when the lone survivor from the pipeline tragedy publicly shared his story about the nightmare, which he and his family endured because of Paria’s cruel and inhumane conduct.”

“We call upon PM Keith Rowley to fire the Board of Directors immediately, namely: Newman K. George (Chairman);Fayad Ali; Avie Chadee; Peter Clarke; Eustace Nancis and Reza Salim.

She said, “taxpayers funded this Commission of Enquiry and genuine and meaningful action must be taken or else the Prime Minister would be guilty of the worst form of political hypocrisy and deceit.”

Persad-Bissessar also pointed to a conflict of interest, as George is the husband of House Speaker Bridgette Annisette-George.

She said: “PM Rowley must put the country and the bereaved families first and his personal friendship with PNM friends and financiers second, for once. Paria’s Chairman, Newman George is the husband of House Speaker Bridgette Annisette George and Rowley’s golfing partner.”

“Further, Dr Rowley’s personal lawyer, Mr Michael Quamina S.C. is also the Chairman of Paria’s parent company, Trinidad Petroleum Holdings Limited. His role in this fiasco should not be underestimated and also justifies his immediate removal given his failure to intervene and take decisive action to save the lives of these men.”

“PM Keith Rowley must make a public statement to explain the steps his Government intends to take to ensure that this multimillion-dollar expensive Commission of Enquiry would not go to waste. Merely passing the report to the Director of Public Prosecutions is not enough. It amounts to passing the buck.”

She added that the Occupational Safety and Health Authority and Agency (OSHA) must also take action before the expiry date.

“The Prime Minister must therefore come clean and tell the nation what the Government’s policy position is given the fact that the Commission has red flagged the limitation period for legal action by OSHA which expires on 24th February 2024.”

She alleged that the Commission of Enquiry cost taxpayers approximately $16 million in fees and called for a similar sum to be allocated to the families of the divers.

“This Commission was nothing more than a feeding frenzy for PNM lawyers, friends, and financiers. Whilst the lawyers have fattened their pockets, the poor victims and their children have not received one red cent from the Government. The UNC maintains that we did not need a Commission of Enquiry to tell us what anyone with a modicum of common sense already knew: that Paria was guilty of gross negligence due to its mismanagement of this incident when they prevented rescue attempts that could have saved lives. We therefore call upon the Government to allocate a similar sum that they have paid the lawyers for the Commission of Enquiry and distribute it to the families.”

“Dr Rowley must instruct Paria to accept liability for negligence and commence negotiations so that these families, who endured pain, suffering, and trauma in the aftermath of their loss, could get their just due. Whilst no amount of money can ever compensate them for their loss and the pain, suffering, trauma, and humiliation they have been made to endure at the hands of Paria, it will at least bring some measure of relief.”