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Cops under fire as Petrotrin workers protest well-capping
Tension mounted outside the Pointe-a-Pierre oil refinery yesterday as riot police apprehended a man for wearing a camouflage hat during a heated protest by Petrotrin workers to stop the capping of 65 oil wells in southern Trinidad. The wells, which the Ministry of Energy said were “unproductive and abandoned,” are being capped to facilitate the $7.5 billion San Fernando to Point Fortin Highway. However, in a show of force, president general of the Oilfields Workers’ Trade Union Ancel Roget mobilised workers from the refinery, exploration and production fields to show their dissatisfaction. The workers came from the fields of Forest Reserve, Guayaguayare, Penal/Barrackpore, Trinmar and Point Fortin.
During the protest, police cautioned a man about his camouflage cap and eventually put him in a police jeep, but angry workers converged, demanding his release. “All you not leaving here. This is our compound,” one man shouted as the workers formed a human barricade in the car park. Roget, who was about to address the gathering, quickly intervened and the police eventually released the man. Roget said the workers came in peace to protect the assets of the country. He accused the Government of depriving Petrotrin of additional revenue by capping productive wells. “The Government’s intention is to build this highway come hell or high water. It cannot be said that in the period of high oil prices and declining oil production that they want to cap 65 wells,” Roget said.
Calling on Petrotrin president Khalid Hassanali to provide a seismic report of the southern region, Roget said, “Where is the seismic report? Let us see that so we can walk and see for ourselves whether the wells are productive. We have to struggle to protect our jobs.” He added that while Petrotrin closes down wells, the company was continuing to import 100,000 barrels of oil per day. Lambasting Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar for mismanagement, Roget said, “Kamla using the helicopter to fly all about. Kamla flying by night, but you know what they say, birds fly high but they must come down to die.” He added, “We cannot believe a word that they are saying. What they doing does not make economic sense. We want to know the potential loss of these wells. We want to verify that every one of those wells is unproductive, because we know otherwise.”
Roget also accused Petrotrin of reneging on its agreement on variable pay and called on all Petrotrin workers to join their struggle, saying workers had a duty to protect the assets of their country. Minister of Energy Kevin Ramnarine last week confirmed that Petrotrin was paid $50 million to cap oilwells. However, a senior Petrotrin official said most of the wells were abandoned. He said four out of 39 wells must be capped for the controversial Mon Desir to Debe phase and out of these, only 50 barrels of oil were obtained per day.
The spokesman said it was not risky to build a highway over capped wells.